Dr. Katie Artnak: Nurse, Teacher, Traveler
August 19, 2013
Dr. Kathryn Artnak’s nursing career has taken her from coast to coast in the U.S. and points far beyond.
Her most recent foray into the relative unknown took place in May of 2013 when she helped lead a group of graduate nursing students on ASU’s first-ever study abroad trip to Africa. The group spent two weeks in Malawi in southeast Africa presenting educational programs at Daeyang Nursing College, and working alongside faculty, students and staff at Daeyang Luke Hospital and Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe and St. Martin’s Hospital in Malindi.
The group also ventured into more rural areas of Malawi for some of their most memorable experiences.
“We pulled off the main asphalt highway and drove about four miles on a shoulder-less dirt road that makes our West Texas caliche ranch roads look like super highways,” Artnak said. “Coming around a bend, we found a tree with about 250 women and children gathered waiting for us. We provided pediatric sick call for children, nutritional screening, immunizations and family planning services, all outdoors.”
“To give the students a break,” she added, “we went on safari to the Liwonde National Park and to Lake Malawi. We also took a day trip to Dedza in the mountains outside Lilongwe. On the way, we visited the health clinic and orphanage founded in 1994 by South Korean missionary Sister Baek, who subsequently led the effort to build the Daeyang Luke Hospital and Nursing College. The whole trip was a powerful experience.”
Treating patients in the African bush, however, was not in Artnak’s original career plans. She initially went to college to become a teacher, but the job market necessitated a change of major.
“Without question, ASU provides a unique learning opportunity for nurses…The students who went on our trip to Malawi chose ASU because it was completely online.”
“Teaching jobs were scarce in the early 1970s,” Artnak said. “I couldn’t imagine a worse fate than to incur debt while earning a degree, and not have a job at the end. My mother was a nurse and helped me get a summer job at the hospital to see what I thought. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the experience. After that, I changed my major, doubled up on my classes and still graduated on time.”
As a junior at Ball State University during the Vietnam War, she also joined the U.S. Navy.
“The armed services were desperate for nurses,” Artnak said, “so recruiting on campus was visible and aggressive. Several of my classmates were in the Army, Air Force or Navy. I wanted to be stationed where there was water. You can’t have ships without water, so I joined the Navy.”
“The incentive package was persuasive,” she added. “The Navy Nurse Corps guaranteed placement in one of your three choices for duty station. You were commissioned as an officer immediately upon enlistment, so I was an ensign on active duty my senior year. I incurred two years of active duty obligation in return for one year of paid schooling. That was a pretty sweet deal back in 1973.”
Artnak’s Navy nursing career took her to San Diego, where she cared for military personnel returning from Vietnam, as well as their families. She also met and married her husband, Dr. Joe Artnak, a Navy physician. The couple was stationed together in Japan, after which Artnak left the Navy and traveled with Joe as he was stationed in Bethesda, Md., and Jacksonville, Fla. After completing his service obligation, Joe accepted a position as a gastroenterologist at Shannon Medical Center in San Angelo.
Artnak also worked at Shannon, implementing nursing clinical education programs. Then, with all of her four children in school, she earned her doctoral degree and finally got to be a teacher, starting at ASU in 1995. She now teaches theory and health policy and ethics for advanced nursing practice in the online master’s degree program.
“Without question, ASU provides a unique learning opportunity for nurses,” Artnak said. “The majority of the master’s degree students we attract would be unable to advance their education were it not for a totally online program. Where they live or the jobs they have constrain their options. The students who went on our trip to Malawi chose ASU because it was completely online.”
From her office in ASU’s Center for Community Wellness, Engagement and Development (WED Center), Artnak also conducts research on end-of-life care and chronic illness for the CareGiver Research Institute. She also maintains a practice at Shannon as a clinical ethics consultant, and chairs the Hospital Ethics Committee.
In her limited spare time, Artnak enjoys water color painting and, of course, traveling. She and Joe have four grown children, Joey, Stephanie, Shannon and Adam, and one granddaughter, Mary Kathryn.