Excellence in Nursing: Treating Patients as Whole

Approaching his third year of being a Registered Nurse, Cody Woyak ’19 knew from a young age that his career would be defined by helping people. And while each day is different, at the core of each day is to make the difference. Cody has developed an individualized approach to patient care understanding that each patient is unique.

A Natural Caregiver

As a junior in his Wisconsin Rapids high school, Cody became a primary caregiver. His father, a hard-working police officer, was dealing with a debilitating illness that affected him 3-5 days a week. Cody devoted his time to providing care and supporting his Mom as she did the same. As these roles of parent and child reversed, he would help with his father transition between rooms, manage medications, attend doctor appointments, etc. It would take time for a diagnosis, but eventually they learned what was behind these symptoms: Meniere’s disease. After the diagnosis and a successful surgery, Cody’s father experienced a reduction of symptoms and his quality of life drastically improved.

While he hated to see his dad struggle, Cody was cognizant of how caregiving came naturally and he enjoyed helping. Cody knew he wanted to continue his education and enter the medical field. The first in his family to go to college, Cody started by touring several schools.

More than a Number – Marian is a Family

The Marian University tour left a lasting impression and provided the academic blueprint for his future success. Three of the biggest selling points were the small class sizes, Christian values, and TRIO-SSS (student support services) program. A first-generation college student, Cody participated in TRIO all four years and refers to it as his “second family”. He always found individualized support, and relied heavily on his TRIO peer mentor throughout his first year. The program offered him an opportunity to give back when he became a TRIO peer mentor to new students. Cody was this year’s recipient of a TRIO Excellence Alumni award. Several years after graduation, it’s evident his contributions are valued and that Cody’s impact on the program endures.

Cody felt like more than a number. He desired a personalized learning environment and appreciated the opportunities to connect with professors. His professors not only knew him personally, but they were invested in his success. He lived on campus for the first three years and enjoyed participating in activities on campus. Some of his greatest friendships grew roots during this chapter in life. Invested in the success of fellow classmates, Cody worked in the Writing & Learning Center as a student tutor. His passion for helping others is what eventually led him to meet his future wife, Andrea Krahenbuhl ‘19. She was also a tutor with passion for helping others, and they met in the Library while tutoring students.

Pandemic Style Nursing

After graduating with his Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree (BSN) and a minor in theology, Cody had an immediate job offer with Marshfield Hospital working as an RN on the medical/surgical unit. Over the first year He climbed the ladder taking on leadership responsibilities as the Charge Nurse. He would work there for over a year. Andrea also graduated with her Bachelor’s Degree in Education and began working as a 9th grade math teacher in Berlin. This would lead Cody to accept a position in the ICU at Theda Care’s Berlin location.

While nursing school prepares students for their career, nursing school also prepares students to understand and expect a learning curve when the patient is real. Cody spent several months acclimating to this world, learning to listen and observe patients objectively, and find confidence in his trusting his instincts. But no matter how prepared he felt, the COVID-19 pandemic was an entirely different trauma that he endured less than a year after graduation. And while some nurses had more experience nursing, everyone was on day one of learning how to navigate patient care, protecting yourself and your family, and treating the multitude of issues created beyond the physical symptoms of the virus. Pandemic nursing requires adaptability, collaboration, keen observation and communication, and the ability to embrace an environment of consistent change.

Caring for the Whole Patient

Cody believes in holistic patient care and aspires to treat the whole person, rather than solely focusing on the illness or symptoms. He will pray with his spiritual patients, listen to those experiencing loneliness, and strives to help patients with the secondary effects of illness. Cody found some of his COVID-19 patients were struggling with boredom and don’t watch TV so he would print off crossword puzzles or sudoku. He believes each patient is unique, and the mind, body, and spirit should be part of the patient care path to healing.

He believes that nurses are, “a beacon of light to someone in their darkest hour.” And for Cody, being that light doesn’t feel like a job but rather, his life’s mission.

Marian University’s TRIO-SSS program is designed to support three types of students: first-generation, income-eligible, or differently-abled. Student receive individualized assistance from professional, caring staff members to help navigate the college experience. The Marian program is funded by a federal TRIO Grant and services are FREE of charge. The goal of TRIO-SSS is to increase college retention and graduation rates of its participants.  Visit our website to learn more about the TRIO-SSS program.