Nursing student demonstrates Etch-A-Skillz

Nine-year-old Madeline Skillings stared at her reflection in the dark airplane window. Although they had only been en route to Hawaii for an hour, it felt like days. She wiggled restlessly and poked her mom sitting in the seat next to her, asking for something to play with. Reaching into a bag, her mom pulled out a small, red rectangle with a gray screen and two little white knobs. For the next several hours, Madeline drew picture after picture on the new toy. Before she knew it, she was getting off the plane. She came out of the gate with something very special under her arm, her first Etch A Sketch.

Madeline, now in her third semester at the BYU College of Nursing, has built up her Etch A Sketch skills throughout the years to become a great artist. She is mentored by Christoph Brown (the world’s fastest Etch A Sketch artist), and just this summer became the brand ambassador for Spin Master, a toy making company.

Although Madeline can also draw and paint, she loves the Etch A Sketch because of its simplicity. “I think that today there are a lot of things competing for people’s attention,” she says. “Typically, those are things that dazzle and excite you. I like being able to make something beautiful that draws attention away from touch screens towards something that’s really basic.”

Despite challenging classes and clinicals, Madeline still likes to Etch A Sketch on the side. She has a YouTube channel and Instagram account to showcase her artwork. Madeline always shakes the Etch A Sketch after she finishes a piece, so most people only ever see a picture or video of her art. For Madeline, this temporary aspect of Etch A Sketch art is beautiful.

“People get so sad when I shake it,” she says. “But I tell them I think it’s beautiful that it doesn’t last. You can’t preserve it or hang it on a wall, so you have to enjoy it in the moment. Every piece you make is truly original, then it’s gone, and you can’t re-create that ever again.”

Although being an Etch A Sketch artist hasn’t played directly into her nursing career so far, Madeline has learned several lessons that have helped her become a better nurse.

“You definitely learn patience because Etch A Sketching is something that doesn’t come easily at first,” she says. “It takes work to master and it’s not always fun, but it’s so worth it when you finish.”

It’s the same with nursing: not every experience is fun. It’s hard work, and sometimes you have to keep reminding yourself of why you do it. But, every once in a while, you have a moment where you think, ‘Ah, this is why I’m doing it’, and you see why it’s worth it. For me, it’s typically when I’m with a patient and I’ve been able to do something small that’s made their day better.”

Click here to watch a time-lapse of Madeline’s drawing for the College of Nursing.


Enhancement in Education, Part Five: Nursing from the Seoul

This story is part of an ongoing series about the BYU College of Nursing’s Mary Jane Rawlinson Geertsen Nursing Learning Center and the College’s constant efforts to update it.

An Arab proverb states that there is always something to learn from experimentation. Assistant teaching professor Debra Wing and her husband found that true during their recent mission in South Korea, and it may be applicable for students with whom Wing works in the Mary Jane Rawlinson Geertsen Nursing Learning Center (NLC).

As a long-time nurse and College of Nursing employee, Wing has never been a stranger to the medical world. However, a mission in a foreign country definitely offered opportunities for experimentation in unfamiliar circumstances. She accepted the challenge, and as a result of her willingness to try something new, she had unexpected results.

“I have not felt the same spirit of care until serving in a mission,” Wing says. That spirit was developed as she worked with LDS soldiers and their families that many times were facing intense challenges in life. One blessing of the experience was that she developed more sensitivity for nursing students trying to stay on top of a rigorous curriculum.

Another benefit was the opportunity to work in a local clinic where she taught staff about simulation. This was a close-to-home topic, since much of Wing’s work, as well as the nursing curriculum, centers around the simulation program in the NLC.

“Taking those skills and applying them in Korea in the facilities where I worked, I helped the public health nurses with several programs, but a lot of them were really based on simulation principles,” she says.

Teaching Korean medical workers and teaching BYU students are not completely different experiences. For some BYU students, working with manikins while being taped can seem daunting. However, like Wing and those she taught in Korea, sometimes students have to be willing to experiment with new ideas in a new environment in order to benefit from the program.

According to Wing, it brings tremendous benefits.

“It’s an opportunity for students to practice in a safe environment in context of what they’re learning,” Wing says. “It also gives them the opportunity to see experiences that they may not have in the hospital.”

Wing thinks that students who overcome the hurdles of engaging in different activities in the NLC are able to better appreciate the teaching there.

“I think that as they participate more, students do understand how valuable the simulated experiences are for them,” Wing says. “It’s a much more effective way for students to learn than to read chapters in a book, listen to lectures, and go to a hospital and hope that you’re doing everything that you’ve read in the book or heard in the lecture.”

Wing now plans to keep helping the program expand as she applies the insights developed in her mission. With luck, students will continue to have the same vision of their learning and growth potential.

“It’s really exciting to see how it has grown as far as the use,” Wing says. “I don’t know that I see things that need to be improved, particularly as much as I see that we have expanded so much, and that we have more people working now in simulation, and I see the potential that we have for continued growth.”


Enrichment in Education, Part Four: Simulation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

This story is part of an ongoing series about the BYU College of Nursing’s Mary Jane Rawlinson Geertsen Nursing Learning Center and the College’s constant efforts to update it.

This past summer, sixteen BYU College of Nursing faculty and staff received three days of intensive simulation training. The process, one could say, has modeled a path to success for any nursing college.

The course, offered by Intermountain Health Care and hosted at LDS Hospital, was tailored specifically to the needs of BYU staff. It was in part the brainchild of assistant teaching professor Stacey Hunsaker, who, after six years of working with simulation, felt that it would be beneficial to standardize the training that college employees received.

“They held a course for us, and it was great because as a team we were able to experience specific issues to our simulation and work on very specific items related to BYU nursing, so it was really helpful for us to be there as a team,” Hunsaker says.

After receiving a thick binder full of notes, the teachers were taught important ideas about using simulation in instruction, including the need for establishing good communication between students and helping them get engaged in the activities.

“By going to that course, all of us were able to get that same consistent information, so now we can hopefully provide a better experience for the students of all semesters who participate in simulation,” Hunsaker says.


NLC Supervisor Colleen Tingey works with other staff to practice simulation drills intended to benefit students.

Part of the process was participating in and creating scenarios; it was as though the teachers became the students as they practice different situations and were critiqued on how they performed. Staff also worked to implement new ideas into existing simulations as well as develop new ones for this year’s teaching.

“We were able as groups to develop objectives for all of our simulations and then put them into consistent formats throughout all semesters,” Hunsaker says. “So now we have all of them set up so that they’ll have a prebrief, a simulation, and a debriefing moment.”

Getting everyone on the same page was a key motivator to implement the training, and the college is making all efforts to preserve the progress made. Now all new staff will be able to take the course when hired, and there are two meetings a semester to evaluate how well simulation principles are being applied in the classrooms.

While the training may be costly, Dean Patricia Ravert believes that simulation is “really integral to our program” and thus merits the effort to advance it.

“We want to have a top-notch program, which we do, and we want to maintain that,” she says. “We want to make sure that the students really have great experiences.” Both she and Hunsaker believe that the training establishes a stronger base of unity and understanding among the simulation staff.

“It really brings us together as a team because we all have the same foundation now,” Hunsaker says. “We all know we can all give good, valid information, not that it was bad before, but I think that it just brought everything together and provided so much consistency. Now we’re all using the same terminology. We all know how a sim is supposed to run.”


School of Nursing faculty and staff_Stephanie Ferguson

Dr. Stephanie L. Ferguson To Address Nursing College Event


This year’s annual Scholarly Works Conference brings a special treat for BYU nursing students: a chance to hear from the world-renowned nursing expert Dr. Stephanie L. Ferguson.

Dr. Ferguson has years of experience in the health industry. She founded and is president of a health-consulting firm that has clients all over the world. Her travels have seen her visit over 140 countries.

Her employers have included the World Health Organization and the White House. Leadership has been a defining character of her career, with positions including:

  • Elected member of the National Academy of Medicine/Institute of Medicine
  • Member of the Board of Trustees of the U.S. Catholic health Association
  • Director of the International Council of Nurses’ Leadership for Global Change Programme
  • Co-chair of the American Academy of Nursing’s Institute for Nursing Leadership
  • Director of the Washington Health Policy Institute in the Center for Health Policy, Research and Ethics
  • Director of the ICN-Burdett Global Nursing Leadership Institute, located in Switzerland

Dr. Ferguson’s topic is “Building and Sustaining Healthy Nations: Leading the Way Forward.” While registration for the conference is now closed, the college will provide information next week about Dr. Ferguson’s presentation, as well as about select breakout sessions.

Why serve? Nursing students practice Healer’s art 24/7

2Clinicals, class time, projects, homework: nursing students don’t always have a very flexible schedule. Under such a heavy class load, most of us would savor any available free time, hunkering down with a blanket and indulging in a well-deserved Netflix binge. However, two BYU College of Nursing students are taking their free time and doing just the opposite: serving.

Third semester students Johny Jacobs and Elise Millward are involved with the BYU Center for Service and Learning (Y-Serve) and volunteer during their free time. With a rigorous school schedule and time-consuming responsibilities, they are staying busy and learning to put the Healer’s art into daily practice.

johnny_2As a member of the Y-Serve marketing team, Johny spreads his love for service. He has a conviction that service benefits the community and makes people happy and successful. Y-Serve commitments also stretch him to use available free time more wisely.

“Being in both the nursing program and Y-Serve really help manage my time,” he says. “I procrastinate a little bit sometimes, but having such a busy schedule keeps me on task. When I get an assignment, I’ll have a good estimation of how long it will take me and I HAVE to get it done. If I didn’t have that, I would just be distracted on social media.”

Elise Millward currently serves the program director for Special Olympics at Y-Serve, providing sporting opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities. It’s a lot of work, but she feels the extra time she puts in serving people outside of class is well worth it.

1“Serving these athletes has taught me how to love and how to have compassion,” she says. “I’m gaining valuable skills and it’s so fulfilling to experience their pure, innocent love. It seems like they have less than I do, but in having less they know how to give more.”

Both Johny and Elise know that serving people makes them happiest. Elise also recognizes that her classes and extra service are stepping stones that will teach her how to help others experience the Healer’s art, the same way she experienced it when she was sick.

While on her mission in New Jersey, Elise became quite ill. Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis, Myasthenia gravis, and Guillain-Barré syndrome kept her immobile in bed. Mission rules made it difficult to get clearance to go to the hospital. She spent about a week and a half in bed, spoon-fed by her companion, get weaker and weaker.

One night Elise knew that regardless of clearance, she needed to get to the hospital. “I knew that if I went to sleep, I wouldn’t wake up,” she says. “I was going to die. I told my companion, ‘Get me to the hospital now. I don’t care if I’m cleared, just get me there.’”

Elise was rushed to the hospital and placed in the ICU as doctors worked to save her life. Her experience there would have a lasting impact on her decision to become a nurse, and to learn the Healer’s art.

“I remember waking up and feeling overwhelmed with gratitude as I looked up and I saw this really small, young girl who was my nurse,” she says.

img_4680“I knew that if the Savior were here, he would be playing her role as I lay on my deathbed. He would be the one who had all the skills to know what to do if my health tanked. He would be the one who was by my side through the night, making sure that I was o.k. He would get to know me and my hopes and dreams. He would make me feel like I really had a future, even though everything was uncertain at the time.”

Despite their sometimes hectic schedules, Johny and Elise couldn’t be happier and plan on helping out with Y-Serve as long as they can.

“Serving helps you focus less on your own needs and more on others,” Johny says. “I’ve found that having a less-selfish perspective really does make me happier. One of my favorite quotes about service comes from Arthur C. Brooks when he said, ‘You simply can’t find any kind of service that won’t make you happier.’ I wouldn’t give up the feeling I get when serving for anything.”

Anyone interested in learning more about Y-Serve and service opportunities can visit


Enhancement in Education, Part Three: Enter MedAffinity

This story is part of an ongoing series about the BYU College of Nursing’s Mary Jane Rawlinson Geertsen Nursing Learning Center and the College’s constant efforts to update it.

In the basement of the Spencer W. Kimball Tower, students are training to be observers. All their subjects are kept under intensive watch, with any changes in behavior or well-being quickly typed into computer files. Nothing escapes their notice, or more importantly, their notes.

No, this is not NSA training; these are nursing students using new software, MedAffinity EHR, that helps them practice documenting patient treatment. It’s a system that hopefully will allow students to adjust better to working in a hospital environment where recording patient data on a computer is the norm.

“MedAffinity is electronic documentation, and the way the real world is going is to have an electronic health record,” says Colleen Tingey, supervisor of the Mary Jane Rawlinson Geertsen Nursing Learning Center (NLC). “The world that [students will be] working in is using electronic documentation, and [they] need to figure out how to do it.”

Documentation in nursing is everything, says Tingey. She teaches students that if they don’t document what they did for a patient, then they effectively didn’t do it, leaving them legally vulnerable if there are questions about what they have done to treat patients.

This documentation used to be mainly by hand, but in recent years the trend has been to do it electronically, including in the hospitals where students do their clinicals. That made it necessary to search out a program that could imitate standard documentation software.

After examining many programs over the years, it was decided that MedAffinity was the way to go, but not without some changes.

The program looks just like a typical electronic documentation software that you would find in hospitals. As students complete their labs in the NLC, afterwards (or during) they record what they did on the program. The “patients” they treat and their background information are preloaded by NLC assistant supervisor Kristen Whipple, so students can write about all the different actions they take to treat them.

“Our goal is to make it as real as possible,” Whipple says. In an effort to resemble a typical hospital environment, the NLC now has computers next to patient beds.

MedAffinity is extremely meticulous, in large part thanks to BYU nursing faculty as well as Tingey and Whipple who helped redesign the software to make it more compatible with the nursing program’s requirements. It now covers many more aspects of documentation, with very specific descriptions of treatment and patient reaction.

Another benefit is that this program helps train not only students in the undergraduate registered nurse program, but also those in the graduate nurse practitioner program.

However, Tingey and Whipple stress that the idea of MedAffinity, which is currently employed mainly in the skills labs, is not meant to show students how to use all documentation software, since it can vary throughout the country. “We’re not trying to teach a certain program; we’re teaching principles of documentation,” Tingey says.

Assistant professor Dr. Deborah Himes, who teaches courses involving MedAffinity, sees other benefits in teaching students how to document their work beyond just their legal protection.

“In a sense, learning how to chart well makes you a better nurse because you think about the outcomes you have to chart when you get to the end,” Himes says. “You do a care for a patient, and you go back to chart it, and you can evaluate how it went based on how the patient reacts.”

Implementation has been an intensive labor, but is now moving along relatively smoothly. It requires constant fine-tuning, and always will due to the dynamic nature of the industry. For students, the adaptation from paper to electronic is not always easy, but Tingey believes that it’s a key training for students.

“They’ll be much more prepared to function in the real world,” she says.


Enhancement in Education, Part Two: Why The Sound Your Alarm Clock Makes Could Save Your Life

This story is part of an ongoing series about the BYU College of Nursing’s Mary Jane Rawlinson Geertsen Nursing Learning Center and the College’s constant efforts to update it.

Beep! Beep! Beep! The infusion pump has little tolerance for delay, and so when its user stalls in making a decision, a high pitched beep illustrates its displeasure. It continues to beep at other moments when the user attempts to get an intravenous line ready.

Some may get annoyed by the noise; however, that is one of the benefits of the new brand of IV pumps used by the Mary Jane Rawlinson Geertsen Nursing Learning Center (NLC).

Rebecca Edmunds, a student employee at the NLC, thinks that these pumps are much better than the old ones, mainly due to their being much more user-friendly, as well as safer for patients. “They’re easy to train on,” she says.

Part of that may be because any time that a nurse might mess up the IV administration, the beeping begins.

“There’s a lot of safeties built into this that were not in the previous pump,” Edmunds says. This includes a light system that indicates if an IV delivery is going smoothly, as well as the ability to automatically cut off an IV if something goes wrong.

Another plus for the new machines is that they are preprogrammed with information about usual drug dosages for patients—it will ask multiple times if a nurse is certain he or she wants to administer certain quantities of the drug, thus reducing the chance of medical error.


NLC supervisor Colleen Tingey works to set up one of the new IV infusion pumps.

“The coolest thing about these is that they can associate to charting,” Edmunds says. This means that when an IV is running, the information can be given real-time to the patient’s hospital file, and others can remotely see what treatment is being administered.

NLC supervisor Colleen Tingey explains that the pumps were changed from their previous brand when Intermountain Healthcare switched its main brand to Alaris earlier this year, as many students do their clinicals at their hospitals. However, she says, the idea is to help students get used to using IV pumps in general since there are so many different brands in use in the medical world.

“To have lots of different kinds and to try and teach lots of different kinds is just cumbersome,” she says. “We can’t do that, so we tried to do what the majority of students will see.”