Empathy is an important skill that Andrea Caldwell Berndt ’71S honed during her 30-year career as an Army nurse.
“So much in life is a team effort and as an Army nurse, you learn teamwork from the very beginning,” stated Andrea. “Empathy is a key ingredient to move a team forward. You’ve got to understand where others come from, what motivates them, and how best to work together.”
Andrea grew up overseas in an oil camp in Venezuela, and like her two older sisters, returned to the United States to finish high school at Moravian Seminary for Girls (MSG). She developed a love of science and chemistry and was motivated by the high expectations at the school.
“Coming to MSG was like going from one home to another,” stated Andrea. “Initially [Former] Headmistress Lillie Turman set the tone. It was exacting, but she inspired confidence with encouragement to do your best. You strove for excellence and got a sound education from incredible faculty.”
Andrea’s love for the sciences led her to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania and subsequently a Master of Science specializing in trauma and critical care from the University of Maryland. While an undergraduate she joined the Army Student Nurse Program which funded the last two years of her degree in exchange for three years of service. She said, “It was a challenge and a great way to go.”
Throughout her career, Andrea worked with patients, health care professionals and communities throughout the country and abroad, with assignments in clinical practice, education, research, and administration.
Looking back, she mused, “As an Army nurse, there is no typical day. You employ every skill that you learn along the way. Success comes as long as you understand that you are on a team; there’s no way you could do it alone. You need to draw on each other’s strengths and talents. Every day I felt like I made a difference, whether it was working with patients and families, teaching health care providers, assisting with clinical research protocols or leading health care institutions. It was a privilege to serve and to be a part of something that’s bigger than oneself. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to make a difference every day.”
Andrea “firmly believes in giving back to the community, whether it’s your professional, religious, or the community in which you live.” Now a self-proclaimed “professional volunteer,” she shares the leadership skills cultivated throughout her career culminating as Chief of Nursing Administration at Walter Reed Army Medical Center with community nonprofit organizations.
In a final reflection, Andrea shared, “In this interconnected world, empathy should be viewed as a strength. Our society is blended, so we need to understand each other and learn to work together.”This article appeared in the Spring 2019 Moravian Academy Journal on page 22.