Great Friends, Great Nurses, Great Team

L. Jessica; R. Katie
Best friends since kindergarten, RNs Katie and Jessica set team nursing model in treating COVID-19 patients.

By Heather Stirnweis, BSN, RN

Nurse Clinical Coordinator – 6 Medical

Methodist Richardson Medical Center

I have had the privilege of working and mentoring Jessica Pena and Katherine “Katie” Cacioppo for the last six months on 6 Medical. These two young women are unique to Methodist Richardson Medical Center because their story began in the year 2000, when they first met in kindergarten. Katie was shy and reluctant to go into the classroom. But the outgoing Jessica invited her to come in and help her put together a puzzle. The rest is history.

Friends from the beginning

These girls went through elementary, middle, and high school together, graduating from Hebron High School in 2013. They both decided to go to Texas Tech University. Jessica loved that it was just far enough from home that she could be away at college but not so far that she couldn’t reach out if she needed her family. Katie’s choice was easy, coming from a line of Texas Tech graduates.

As they began their college journey, their hearts were set on nursing. Both said that they chose nursing because they genuinely love people and love helping others. In college, they not only attended class together but also shared a dorm room. I asked them what would happen when they had conflicts. They said that food always brought them back together (spoken like true nurses). Katie and Jessica even worked at many of the same places during college: a day care, a young children’s care facility, and the local hospital as patient care technicians.

Jessica and Katie graduated six months apart in 2018. Their first job together was at a skilled nursing facility. Then Jessica started working at Methodist Richardson in June 2019 and encouraged Katie to come there, too. Jessica told her that it was one of the best places to work, and the environment was awesome. It took Katie just a few months to make the transition to begin working at Methodist Richardson, too.

Team nursing to care for COVID-19 patients

A month later, 6 Medical opened and Jessica and Katie were on the unit. Soon afterward the COVID-19 pandemic began. When 6 Medical was one of the units assigned to care for COVID-19 patients, our manager, Shannon Jackson, and I began preparing our nurses for the possibility of a patient surge and the need for team nursing.

When it came to implementing team nursing, Jessica and Katie exceeded our expectations. They had done some research about team nursing and what the model looked like. I asked them, “Why do you think team nursing works so well for both of you?” They replied that they listen to each other, anticipate each other’s needs, and don’t keep a scorecard of who’s done what, which prevents either one resenting the other. They think of team nursing as a balanced effort, and they do things that highlight their strong points — all while providing patient-centered care. Katie says that when she works with another nurse besides Jessica, she’s able to show them the team model and adapt her nursing style to complement the other’s style.

Why does Katie love working with Jessica? Jessica’s her best friend, and knowing that she’s right there has made working easier during this stressful time. She said that they are in this together. Why does Jessica love working with Katie? There’s never a dull moment. She said that having her nearby makes working on the COVID-19 unit easier.

These two don’t just spend time together at work; they spend time together after work. They both have become recently engaged and are helping each other plan their weddings. Both love outdoor activities like hiking. And they love to vacation together, so it’s a good thing that their fiancées get along so well.

Why Methodist Richardson?

When asked why they love working at Methodist Richardson, they said:

  • We love 6 Medical and the teamwork on our unit
  • We love self-scheduling
  • The work is challenging, and every day is different
  • Our unit is fun and always stocked with coffee.

Katie and Jessica are a dynamic team. Both of these young women have the confidence and maturity that are hard to find in nurses 15 years their senior. Watching them learn and continue to grow has been a bright spot during these unprecedented times. If you’re looking for an organization that supports collaboration and an opportunity to develop your career, Methodist Health System may be the right place for you. Visit us at

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