Professor Kathryn Wood retires knowing she trained the best nurses in Guam
There’s a tradition at the University of Guam’s School of Health where nursing students who pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) are invited to “sign the board.”
“We put paper up on the bulletin board, and it’s the first time they write their name and ‘RN’ behind it. It’s a big thing,” said Professor of Nursing Kathryn M. Wood. “We’re some of the first people that they share their NCLEX results with.”
For Wood, who is retiring from the University of Guam after 30 years as a faculty member, her pride in these moments never grew dull. Those signings, she said, will remain among her most treasured memories in the nursing program.
A proud product of UOG
Wood’s retirement from the School of Health brings her history with UOG full circle. She is not only part of the Triton family as faculty, but as alumni. With an associate degree in nursing from a community college in Kansas, she initially worked at Guam Memorial Hospital and the Naval Hospital. She later enrolled in UOG’s nursing program as a second-step student. She graduated in 1990 and started teaching at UOG as an assistant instructor the same year.
“I came from the bedside to be a teacher — that was a hard path initially,” she said, but she found encouragement and mentorship in UOG’s academic vice president at the time, John Salas.
“He took me under his wing while I was beginning,” she said. “He told me, ‘The next time I need nursing care or my family or loved ones need nursing care, if the nurse who comes to the room identifies themselves as a graduate from UOG, I want full assurance that my family is getting the best nursing care available on Guam.’”
Taking that responsibility to heart, Wood’s mission as an educator became to produce the best nurses in the local workforce.
Having found a love for teaching and joy in watching her students’ passion for nursing grow, she resigned as a full-time nurse in 2000 to focus solely on teaching and furthering her own education.
Tough teaching tactic
Wood admits she may have earned a reputation as a challenging instructor, but it wasn’t without purpose. Challenging her students to think has made them into stronger nurses, she said.
And she always remembered a piece of advice she received when transitioning into a full-time instructor: “After your students graduate, the ones you were the strictest with will come back and thank you. The ones you weren’t strict with won’t come back,” she said.
A lasting impact
Wood ultimately completed her master’s in nursing from Washington State University as well as her doctorate in nursing from University of Hawaii at Manoa while teaching at UOG.
During her tenure, she served as division chair of the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program from 2008 to 2010 and again from 2016 to 2020 and also as the acting director of nursing from 2010 to 2013.
“As her dean, I am proud to celebrate this dedicated and committed faculty member,” said Margaret Hattori-Uchima, dean of the School of Health. “Dr. Wood has made so many significant contributions to the university, to our nursing program, and to the profession of nursing on island and in the Micronesian region.”
Wood has been on every accreditation writing team since the program was first accredited in 1996 and was the primary author of the 2017 document that resulted in the program’s current eight years of accreditation. It was the first time in the history of the program that it met all of the standards.
“This is an amazing feat and example of her excellence in scholarship,” Hattori-Uchima said.
On a community level, her expertise was instrumental in helping Sen. Aline Yamashita develop and pass the Nana Yan Patgon Act in 2013 to protect a woman’s right to breastfeed in public.
Looking back and looking ahead
Following retirement, she will continue to stay involved with UOG by continuing to teach several courses, providing consulting, and supporting the regional nursing programs operated through the School of Health.
Looking back on her 30 years, Wood said she leaves with the satisfaction of knowing she has answered the former academic vice president’s charge. She has guided, mentored, and trained her student nurses to be among the best in Guam.
“We have quality grads, and they care about the community that they serve,” she said.