GREENSBORO — About halfway through his 22 years in the U.S. Navy, two things happened to Ray Goodwin that led him to the nursing program at UNCG.
The first came after the premature birth of his youngest child. Goodwin remembered that the hospital nurses did everything calmly and efficiently and well to make sure his baby would make it home.
The second took place a couple months later when Goodwin was back on active duty. His submarine had just retrieved some injured Navy SEALs from a mission. He was impressed that the sub’s medical specialist could take care of several wounded SEALs while helping Goodwin tend to one more.
I can do this, Goodwin thought. And now he’s learning how.
Goodwin grew up in a military family. One grandfather was a gunner on board a destroyer during World War II. Another grandfather served in the Army and was a D-Day beachmaster, responsible for getting men on and off the Normandy coast. His father served for four years in the Navy toward the end of the Vietnam War.
Goodwin graduated from high school in Ohio. After one rough semester at The Ohio State University, he dropped out. A year and a half later, he enlisted in the Navy.
He made it through three weeks of the grueling SEAL training program before he decided he had had enough.
The Navy then assigned Goodwin to his second choice, submarines. There, Goodwin found his calling. After his training in Connecticut, he served on several different subs — the Narwhal, the Miami, the Georgia and the Columbia. He was assigned briefly to the NR-1, the Navy’s now-retired research sub.
Goodwin worked as an electronics technician — a radioman, for short. He was responsible for maintaining and operating all the on-board tracking, detection and communications equipment.
Because he was briefly a paramedic before enlisting, Goodwin sometimes helped the sub’s corpsman provide medical care to the crew.
When he retired as a chief petty officer in 2017, he was stationed at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.
He and his wife, Angie, have been married 20 years. (They met in high school; she now works for a computer networking company in High Point.) They have three children: Neil, 20, who studies computer networking at GTCC; Alexis, 18, who’s a senior at Page High; and Misty, 9, who’s in fourth grade at Jesse Wharton Elementary.
Neither Goodwin nor his wife had any North Carolina connections, but he picked UNCG’s School of Nursing after looking at nursing programs nationwide. UNCG has a good national reputation, he said, and sits high in some national rankings. He enrolled in the nursing school’s Veterans Access Program, which helps former military members with some medical training get a bachelor’s degree and become registered nurses.
A couple of earlier episodes during his Navy days helped steer him toward nursing.
His daughter Misty was born three-and-a-half months early. The neonatal intensive care nurses, he said, were reassuring and cool under pressure. But the doctors were constantly coming to him with bad news. The nurses told him to ignore the doctors, whose job is to prepare families for the worst.
“It’s our job as nurses to prevent that from ever happening. And we’re really good at our jobs.’”
“That clicked,” said Goodwin, who added that Misty is a happy and healthy 9-year-old. “That has stayed with me. … (I thought) That’s what I want to be. ”
A couple of months later, back on active duty, Goodwin’s submarine was assigned a mission to pick up some Navy SEALs. Several were injured, and Goodwin dragged one of them into the medical station inside a hyperbaric chamber, which can be used to speed up healing.
The corpsman told Goodwin to stay inside so he could deal with the others who were injured.
“He literally walked me through every single thing I had to do to help the guy,” Goodwin said. “And the guy walked off the boat at the end of it.”
Goodwin enrolled at UNCG in August 2017, two weeks after he retired from the Navy.
Emergency room nursing “is a lot like combat,” Goodwin, 43, said. “You’re fighting death. You’re fighting the human body to get it back to where it needs to be. You’re just not being shot back at.”