A Heart for Healthcare - Kayla Goodberlet ’14 and Justin Plata ’14

June 30, 2020

In acknowledgment of the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, Collegium is highlighting alumni who, in their own unique ways, embody what it means to be a “Fisher Nurse.” In this installment, meet Kayla Goodberlet and Justin Plata, both of the Class of 2014

Justin Plata and Kayla Goodberlet

Kayla Goodberlet ’14 and Justin Plata ’14 met at Fisher while enrolled in the School of Nursing. After graduation, they landed jobs in the intensive care unit. A year after that, they took to the road as traveling nurses, fulfilling nearly 20 contracts in 10 states in a variety of ICUs across the country.

“We were able to see how health care varied from state to state and really gained confidence in our nursing ability,” Plata said. “You have to prove your knowledge and skills quickly to gain the confidence of the nursing staff so that they trust you with your more acute patients.”

As traveling nurses, the pair worked with recruiters to identify places where they both could work. They would spend roughly three months at each contract location and then move on to a new position. They extended their contracts with a few sites in California, but for the most part, they stayed on the move, working in Washington, Ohio, Connecticut, and Arizona, among other locales.

“You have to go with the flow and be strong in your clinical skills,” Goodberlet said. “And as always, you advocate for your patients and stay true to your knowledge.”

Plata and Goodberlet recently bought a home in Houston, where they accepted full-time positions in the cardiovascular ICU at Memorial Hermann Health System, the largest not-for-profit health system in Texas.

This spring, after nearly a decade together, Goodberlet and Plata had planned a wedding ceremony with friends and family at an all-inclusive resort in Jamaica. Symbolic of their love of travel, the destination wedding would have served as the culminating “end of the road” trip after five years of travel nursing. Fate had different plans for the duo, though, as concerns about COVID-19 caused borders to close and flights and hotels to cancel. Nurses first and always, Goodberlet and Plata knew postponing their ceremony was the right thing to do.

“It was an easy decision to postpone, to know we would be keeping our friends and family members safe,” Plata said.

Instead of spending lazy April days on the beach, the two worked 12-hour shifts keeping their unit’s sickest patients as safe as possible.

“Every day we review new guidelines and recommendations from the hospital, and we’re now taking the extra step of caution with our patient’s safety,” said Goodberlet. “The goal of cardiovascular ICUs is to always protect the hearts, that’s nothing new. But, with COVID, we’re even more cautious with our transplant patients and those with weakened hearts.”

She added one of the hardest parts is that limited visitation has left many patients without in-person family support. “That’s been the biggest change,” she said. “My heart goes out to my patients. They are alone and having to make these big, sometimes lifesaving, decisions in a scary time at their most vulnerable moments. So we are advocating for them now more than ever before.”