For Austin Woodward, the numbers didn’t seem to be adding up.

Having graduated from Missouri Southern in 2012 with a degree in accounting, he took a job which didn’t work out. He did auditing work for a different business for a while, then accepted a grant-funded position.

But the back of his mind, Woodward knew that his heart was somewhere else.

“I had always been super passionate about the medical field,” he said. “Honestly, I wanted to be a doctor.”

Having taken the pulse of his career trajectory, Woodward’s clinical assessment of the situation led him back to MSSU in 2019 to join the nursing program. He graduated on Saturday, May 14, with the knowledge he’s found his true calling … a 360-degree journey that began as a high-school student taking an anatomy and physiology course.

Having struggled in some aspects of the class, Woodward said his teacher pulled him aside and suggested that perhaps he should consider another field. The following semester, he dropped the class in favor of accounting and economics.

“I did really well and knew I was good with numbers,” he said, explaining his decision to major in accounting.

When he decided to return to MSSU, he first had to take prerequisites for acceptance into the nursing program, including microbiology and the dreaded anatomy and physiology class.

“I was a little apprehensive about A&P, but once I got in there and started doing the coursework, I realized, ‘You know all this stuff. There’s no reason why you can’t pass this,’” he said. “When I got into the nursing program, it was such a natural fit.”

Dr. Lisa Beals, chair of the Nursing Department, said she watched as Woodward continued to develop throughout his time in the program.

“As he progressed, his compassionate and caring nature – as well as his intelligence – helped him develop into a competent professional,” she said.

While still a student, Woodward got a job at a local hospital with the intent of getting a foot in the door and a chance to prove his work ethic.

“I applied at Mercy Hospital for a tech position and got the job,” he said. “Working in the hospital reinforced what I’m supposed to be doing … helping the sick get better.”

He recently accepted an RN position in Mercy’s ICU. Eventually, he hopes to continue his education to become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA).

Going through the nursing program during the COVID pandemic wasn’t easy, but Woodward said it only served to better prepare him and his classmates for what they’ll encounter as nurses.

“It was a challenging time, but it prepared me well,” he said. “If I can work through all the stress that came with that, then I can handle anything that comes my way.”