As Katie Woodworth sees it, there are three qualities that help make a good nurse: Attention to detail. Strong time management. And confidence.
“If you walk into a patient’s room and you’re timid or unsure, patients can see that,” she said with a laugh. “They smell fear.”
Woodworth, who received her bachelor of science in nursing from Penn State Behrend in 2020, has developed those qualities both by virtue of her age – “I’m a little older than a lot of new nurses, and I have some experience,” the 34-year-old mother of two said – and by her first career, in the military.
In 11 years as a medic in the U.S. Army and five in the Pennsylvania National Guard, Woodworth fine-tuned her observation skills. The military is all about attention to detail, she said, and that translates to patient care.
“You really notice the little things,” she said. “Something that someone might miss, you see it and remember it.”
When it comes to time management, the military training shines through again. “It’s such a big part of nursing,” she said. “You feel like you can handle five or six patients and give all of them what they need.”
And then there’s the experience. Woodworth had joined the Army right out of high school, thinking maybe it would lead to a career as an architect. Instead, she tested into the medic program and worked in field units and hospital settings, mastering technical skills like starting IVs and running EKGs. Mostly, though, she discovered that she enjoyed working with patients – caring for them, teaching them to care for themselves, and, above all, advocating for their well-being.
Nursing, then, was a next logical step. She chose Penn State Behrend for two reasons, she said. As an East Springfield native, she was already familiar with the college and its reputation. And she knew that Behrend – known for, in her words, being a military-supportive school – would help her manage both her studies and her National Guard commitments.
Woodworth, who now lives in Millcreek Township, credits her Behrend professors for being understanding and accommodating of the unique demands on her time. She is equally appreciative of the support of her family – including her husband and children, now ages 10 and 6.
But the juggling didn’t end once she had received her nursing degree in May 2020. Just a few short weeks after graduation, Woodworth was deployed with her National Guard unit amid civil unrest in Philadelphia. She started work at Saint Vincent Hospital in August, then was deployed again with the National Guard to protect the U.S. Capitol during January’s presidential inauguration.
It’s a busy life, but for Woodworth, it’s a full one. “You have to go into it knowing that it’s going to be hard, and it will take a sacrifice, but you can do it,” she said. “It’s well worth the challenge.”
Assistant director, news and information, Penn State Behrend