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Staff Stories - January 31, 2023

Drawn to Nursing Careers: Four Goodwin Living Nurses Share Their Stories

By Kathie Miller

“I am of certain convinced that the greatest heroes are those who do their duty in the daily grind of domestic affairs whilst the world whirls as a maddening dreidel.”

― Florence Nightingale

These past three years might breathe new and different life into this quote that is more than a century old and from the woman considered to be the founder of modern nursing. The COVID-19 pandemic thrust us all into unforeseen challenges, ranging from being able to find basic staples like toilet paper in the early days to ensuring our healthcare providers had what they needed to weather the recurring storms caused by surging cases and increased numbers of patients in the medical system.

And yet, through all those worldly whirls and spins, nurses and nursing team members remained steadfast in delivering the best of care to others. Their dedication inspires such admiration and respect. Their stories have been told by major news media, including the story Politico told of Momah Wolapaye, who has cared for nursing care residents at our Goodwin House Alexandria campus since 2011.

Momah’s story is one of thousands of care partners and nurses who choose a career in nursing, a profession that ranks highest in the annual Gallup poll that measures Americans’ views of the honesty and ethical standards of a wide range of occupations. Nurses have held this top position since 1999, when the profession was first listed in the poll.

Hearing the news that nurses topped the list once again this year, we reached out to some of our nursing team members and asked them one simple question: “What drew you to your career in nursing?” And we got some incredibly powerful replies.

Cathy Farmer, Director of Clinical Services at Goodwin House Alexandria

Cathy has worked for Goodwin Living for 26 years. Throughout her career with us, she has held a range of nursing positions. She has been in her current role since 2018.

I am the adult who never turned a somersault as a kid (and don’t expect me to start now). I grew up on a street where there were no children for playmates. My neighbors who were all in their 80s were my friends. I remember sitting in the kitchen of a neighbor who had very white hair and an apron that covered her. As she prepared meals and cleaned her kitchen, I listened to her. Another neighbor loved to talk about antiques—and many other things. I sat in her living room listening to her and my mother had to call for me to come home to dinner. I think becoming comfortable with older people—who also could not turn somersaults—was key to my accepting illness and frailty in others. This led to becoming a nurse.  As I have learned, we all have frailties and weakness—physical and otherwise. I’m glad to be able to still listen and help make people better.

Beth Klint, Executive Director of Goodwin Hospice

Beth joined Goodwin Living as a palliative care nurse in 2016. She later served as director of nursing at Goodwin House Bailey’s Crossroads before becoming executive director of Goodwin Hospice in 2021.

I ran away from nursing for as long as I could for fear of becoming my mother, who is one of the most amazing nurses I know! I tried another career path but realized that it is in my nature to care for people and that it would be much easier to do what I was built to do rather than fight it. I still love the connections between caregivers and patients/families. I love the humanity of nursing and the “do unto others as you would do unto yourself” service of the profession.

Stephanie Howard, Interim Director of Nursing at The View Alexandria

Stephanie recently joined the Goodwin Living team. In her current role, she oversees the nursing care provided at The View Alexandria’s retirement community.

I was 10 years old, and it was television hour close to the Easter Holiday. Charleston Heston was Moses and miraculous things were happening. My six-month-old niece Shelly (a preemie) was asleep in her bassinette in the television room. Commercial time came, and me and my siblings ran to the basket to see if the baby was up so we could take turns holding her again. Only this time, she was not breathing at all!!! Quick to respond, my mother called next door to get Eva, who was a registered nurse, and then she called 911. There was no missing Eva, with the white cap, white dress, white stockings and white shoes, who entered and exited her garage daily. Eva was on super speed to respond and placed Shelly on the dining room table and performed this mysterious function of CPR. Standing there in shock and watching Eva usher breaths back into Shelly’s body was amazing. It seemed like this procedure went on forever. But soon Shelly’s color returned to her face, and then the paramedics arrived. Eva always made an impeccable impression on me; she was the image of order, and she was kind and always appeared to be focused. That day, I had a “wow’ moment about the way God used her. That day, my heart became a nurse.

Kerri Mai, Administrator of Goodwin Home Health

Kerri joined Goodwin Living in 2020. She previously held positions in a range of medical settings, including other senior living and healthcare organizations. She has been administrator of Goodwin Home Health since 2022.

I had always been interested in the medical field since I was a child. My father was diagnosed with diabetes, cardiac issues and cancer all before I was 15 years old. To see how diligently the medical staff cared for him, I always knew I wanted to do something to help other people the way my father was helped. I started off as a candy striper and ended up on the therapy ward. I decided to take the path to kinesiology, with the hopes of being an athletic trainer for the NFL. I was one of six kids, so I knew I would have to depend on myself financially if I wanted to pursue a career in medicine. School was expensive and I had to work three jobs to pay for my books, tuition and room and board. As hard as I tried, as I started my junior year of college, the stress of work and school became too much to continue my path. I then decided to join the military and work on a career in the medical field that way. I started off as combat medic (equivalent to a paramedic), and was offered nursing school shortly afterwards. What I noticed as I was in nursing school was the difference between a nurse and an MD. MDs diagnosed, but the nurses did the care, the follow up and the follow through of care. We were the line of communication from the patient to the MD, the support system for the family, and the right hand of the MD. This made me realize that I was exactly where I was meant to be, and 24 years later, I have no regrets with my choice to become a nurse!

These four incredible nurses exemplify the most trusted profession in the United States with the caring attention they give not just to those under their care, but to their colleagues. At Goodwin Living, we often observe that our nursing team members are some of the most vital yet least seen members of our team—they often work in the most personal an intimate of settings.

We hope to bring more of their incredible stories to light in future blog articles. You can rest assured we have more inspiring stories to uncover and share with you, our loyal readers.

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As Corporate Director of Marketing & Communications, Kathie Miller provides strategic guidance and tactical support for all areas of Goodwin Living. She writes, edits and manages The Good Life blog and newsletter. Kathie joined GHI in 2014 after nearly 15 years at NPR, where she honed her skills in brand and reputation management, content marketing and internal communications. Originally from Pennsylvania, Kathie has slowly come to realize she’s lived in Arlington for more than half her life and should call herself a Virginian. She enjoys the outdoors and brings her rescue dog, Remi, to work every day.

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