Nurse finds his calling after several career changes

Now at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, Joseph Goodson was an athletic trainer at Morehouse and a volleyball coach

For Joseph Goodson, a nurse at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, the path toward his career has been a bit long, but his passion for medicine and service has never waned.

He originally set out to become a physician’s assistant, but instead became an athletic trainer at Morehouse College from 2004-05 after graduating with a master’s degree from Rutgers University’s program. When the next step up in his career as an athletic trainer was an administrative one, Goodson said he knew that wasn’t for him.

“I’m not an administrator. I’m hands-on,” he explained, adding he prefers to interact directly with patients.

He also coached travel volleyball along the way, but realized he was becoming burned out.

“I thought about when I was at my best and most fulfilled, and that was in medicine,” Goodson said, “and nursing was the fastest way to get there. I didn’t want to get later in life and wonder ‘what if.’ "

Emory University’s accelerated nursing program provided him with the opportunity to earn his nursing degree fairly quickly. After starting in August 2021, he graduated in December 2022.

From there, he accepted a night shift job in the emergency department of Piedmont Atlanta Hospital and has since moved into the electrophysiology department, which handles high-tech cardiology. Goodson’s currently working on two additional certifications that will further equip him for the job.

The move demonstrates another benefit of having a nursing career, Goodson pointed out — a wide variety of specialties are available.

Through his career journey, Goodson said he found the skills he’s learned along the way help him as a nurse. These include communicating well with all kinds of people in all kinds of situations, having a background in orthopedics from his athletic training days and the ability to think critically, not be squeamish and to empathize with people when they might be at their worst.

“It’s always been my gift, my calling,” he said. “There’s no question I will stay in nursing. I will be some sort of nurse for the rest of my life.”

Goodson’s compassion has already come into play in an experience others are impressed by but that he’s reluctant to share without prompting. A homeless man came into the emergency room on a cold, rainy night. When he was admitted, everything he had on was completely soaked. Goodson found the patient dry clothes among the ones the hospital keeps on hand for occasions like this. He also looked for shoes, but was unable to find any that fit.

He thought he might have an extra pair in his car, but all he found were flip-flops. So he took off his own shoes and gave them to the patient before putting the sandals on and covering them with surgical booties to wear for the rest of his shift.

“I just couldn’t let him go outside with putting wet shoes on over his dry socks,” Goodson explained. “It was the least I could do. I grew up poor and had a little stretch of almost being homeless.”