Southeast Graduate Nursing Student Pursues Passion to Help Others


As an emergency room nurse, Kelli Woodfin knows the importance of quick thinking, precision decision-making and efficient multitasking.

She’s worked at SoutheastHEALTH in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, as a Registered Nurse for four years, treating patients suffering from trauma, injury or any number of medical conditions. Now, she is among the frontline heroes working to fight the spread of COVID-19 in the local community. She is also just days away from completing a Master of Science in Nursing, Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), from Southeast Missouri State University.

“The ER has been divided up as ‘possible COVID’ and ‘general medical,’ and I’ve have worked the COVID side several times,” she said. “We are providing medical care in the best way we can while protecting ourselves and others, testing patients, and organizing follow-up for these patients.”

Helping others has always been second nature to her, said Woodfin, of Marble Hill and Leopold, Missouri.

“I have always been interested in the medical field and after speaking with and shadowing several nurses, I knew it was the right career field for me,” she said. “I love that nurses are at the bedside providing care 24/7 and building rapport with the patient. Patients put so much trust in us as nurses, and I would never want to break that trust.”

Woodfin (middle) is a Registered Nurse at SoutheastHEALTH, as is among the frontline heroes working to fight the spread of COVID-19 in the local community.

While taking care of her community throughout the pandemic, Woodfin has also been balancing life as a second-year nursing graduate student at Southeast.

She was inspired to become a Family Nurse Practitioner so she could help more people throughout the southeast Missouri region. She chose Southeast because the University’s Family Nurse Practitioner program provides experiential learning opportunities, faculty members with extensive clinical and industry expertise, and a comprehensive curriculum. Southeast also allowed her to take her RN expertise into the classroom and share it with others as a Graduate Assistant.

“I loved the small class size, in-person classes and hands on aspects of the course,” she said. “The future of nursing is studying at Southeast right now — so many young minds are working on their skills and knowledge to become amazing nurses one day. I have been so proud to be a nurse and also help teach future nurses as a Nursing Graduate Assistant.”

Her final semester has brought new challenges – in class, on the job and at home.

“Every day, in both of my roles, as an ER nurse and an FNP student, guidelines change,” she said. “It is an evolving situation and takes excellent adaptation to use the resources we have at the time to provide the best healthcare we possibly can.

Working during the COVID-19 pandemic has presented enormous challenges.

“In addition to my exposures, my fiancé is also a Registered Nurse working in the intensive care unit (ICU) at SoutheastHEALTH, Woodfin added. “Because of this, our family is completely quarantined, other than going to work and back. This is unlike anything we have ever dealt with before, but these times will go down in history.”

Woodfin with her family.

With much of the medical industry having recently transitioned to telehealth or restrictive access, Woodfin has also been working on an alternative assignment to complete the FNP program’s clinical hours requirement. The assignment consisted of her creating a video interviewing a family member portraying a disease process and a patient’s diagnosis and treatment plan.

The assignment gave her another opportunity to showcase her skills and expand her knowledge in new areas, Woodfin said. She chose three diseases – appendicitis, because as an ER nurse she is very familiar with the process; Lyme Disease, because she’s never seen it before and thought it would be interesting to study; and preventative care for women, because it’s so important in her future work as an FNP.

“I am most passionate about preventative care for women because it is overlooked by young people and is so important to keep us healthy for our entire lives,” Woodfin said. “It also happens to tie in with mental health disorders, which is, again, something that is oftentimes overlooked. There is such a need for mental health professionals in this area and I hope to be educated on this subject to be able to provide holistic care to my patients, body and mind.”

Woodfin hopes to work as a family nurse practitioner in a primary care setting.

“Although I love the fast-paced ER setting, I have craved the idea of building long-term patient-provider relationships and caring for people through all aspects of their lives,” she said. “I am also interested in teaching, as the Graduate Assistant position has really shown me what a challenge it is and how rewarding that can be.”

While the past several months has been challenging, Woodfin is looking forward to earning her degree and is confident about the new group of nurses and FNPs graduating from Southeast this month.

“I am excited to have finally conquered this degree,” she said. “I want to give a shout out to my entire class, and to all the student nurses. We will be graduating as FNPs or Registered Nurses to begin our practice amidst a global pandemic. We are such a strong class, and we are going to jump right in and start saving lives.”