Monthly Archives: September 2015

Rugby players make great nurses

Jennie runs the ball with Jessica close behind. Women’s Cougar Rugby played Washington Central in the final four tournament last year. Photo credit: Jennie Lewis

It’s not exactly typical for a nurse to go out and tackle someone, but three students in the BYU College of Nursing have gotten pretty good at it.

Ali Smith, Jessica Peterson and Jennie Lewis are all on the BYU women’s rugby team and studying to become nurses. These women tear down the stereotype of the brutal, blood-thirsty rugby player. Their voices are soft and gentle, faces smiling and ready to listen to whatever you have to say; everything you’d expect from a nurse.

“There’s kind of a juxtaposition between being a nurse and a rugby player,” says Smith, a third semester student from Washington. “I don’t think a lot of people who know me outside of rugby would picture me playing it. They think it’s too aggressive and mean, but really there’s a finesse about rugby that you wouldn’t guess is there.”

The women on the rugby team know how to play the game. Over the past decade Women’s Cougar Rugby has climbed to the top seat in Utah and has been consistently ranked as one of the best teams in the nation. Last season the team made it all the way to the national championships in Pittsburgh and is currently ranked third nationally. Because it’s a club sport, players have the responsibility of fundraising and scheduling for everything from games to transportation. They don’t seem to mind the extra investment.

“Playing on the team means more to me because I’m not being funded to do it; I’m paying out of my pocket to play,” says Lewis, an Arizona native also in her third semester. “My teammates and coaches make it worthwhile and you want to be as involved as possible. They all become your best friends.”

While juggling a busy sports schedule and nursing classes may not be easy, these athlete nurses have gained valuable perspective they feel will help them empathize with patients. “If a player comes in I know what they’re going through,” Smith says. “I know what it’s like to be on the sidelines and how hard it is to be hurt.”

Ali sprints forward. Players are constantly on the move in Rugby; the game only stops for injuries or penalties. Photo credit: Jennie Lewis

Peterson is a second semester student from Chicago and has had more experience with injuries than any athlete would ever want to. She is currently three months through the nine month recovery process for a torn ACL and has had multiple other sicknesses and injuries that have put her in the hospital.

“Going through the injury process for myself, I can see what makes a good doctor or a good nurse,” she says. “Now that I’m learning about it in the program I can see what I like and what I don’t. It’s given me a different view of how I want to be when I’m a nurse.”

These athletes also get to use their nursing skills on the field. Peterson remembers doing tackling drills with new teammates one practice. One girl went in to tackle, positioned her head wrong and ended up smashing another player’s nose. Broken noses bleed a lot, but the students (along with some student athletic trainers) knew what to do.

“We aren’t sponsored so we don’t really have our own trainers at practices to take care of injured players,” Peterson says. “It was so cool how immediately all of us knew what to do. We got up, grabbed the Medikit, helped her off the field and got her situated. It was neat to see how all of us could work together to make sure she was taken care of.”


The Cougar Women’s Rugby team in April earlier this year. Ali and Jessica are on the back row and Jennie is in the front. Photo credit: Jennie Lewis

While some people might find rugby a vicious sport, these three athletes have learned about themselves and nursing by playing it. “I think what’s amazing about nursing is that it teaches you to emotionally be there for someone,” Lewis says. “I have friends who get hurt a lot and just being by their side and emotionally supporting them is something I’ve learned from the program. In a way it’s what the Savior would do.”

BYU Women’s Cougar Rugby is starting a new season and will have their first game against Air Force in Colorado Springs this Saturday. Their first home game will be October 17 at 11am. Go Cougs!

By Nate Brown—BYU College of Nursing public relations assistant

Why getting hit by a car will make you appreciate nurses


Photo credit Wampa-One.

“I’m actually going to get hit,” I think as I take a final look at the car coming towards me. “Why didn’t he stop at the stop sign?” The black metal connects with my bicycle. Smack. Windshield cracks. Crunch. I hit the asphalt. I’m up. Head hurts, swimming, hot, bleeding. Somebody is asking me if they should call 911. Yes. The police come, so does the ambulance. After a flurry of questions I’m off to the hospital.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve been hurt and needed medical care. My hobbies of snowboarding and long boarding have put me in the hospital two other times. But while the incidents have been different, the feeling that comes from being taken care of when I really need it has stayed the same. It’s a feeling of trust and security. It’s a feeling I get as soon as nurses start taking care of me.

Nurses are busy. They are on their feet all day and look after hundreds of patients with different problems. Anyone who has been to a hospital has seen this. As I sat down to get stitched up after the car hit me I told the male nurse I had been on my way home from the new student orientation for the College of Nursing at BYU. He chuckled and said, “I bet they told all the new students nursing is the greatest job in the world. What they don’t tell them is that they are going to be working their butts off every day.”

It amazes me that despite the high demand of their job, nurses are still able to treat each individual patient with compassion and care. Each time I’ve been to the hospital the nurses have listened to me, kept me informed and even joked around with me.

It’s because of this compassion and care that I didn’t question the nurse who started scrubbing gravel out of my raw hand with an alcohol wipe. She explained to me why she had to do it, and even though it hurt more than getting hit by the car I let her scrub. I trust nurses because they know what they’re doing and know what’s best for me.

IMG_1187I don’t think I could ever be a nurse. I got a tour of the College of Nursing’s simulation lab my first day on the job and got woozy just looking at a fake arm with a needle in it. But my aversion to needles and dread of bodily fluids only make me respect nurses more.

With 11 stitches in my forehead and some major road rash everywhere else, I was lucky to come away from the car accident without serious injury. But just as much as I’ll remember getting hit by a car, I’ll remember the way the nurses took care of me when I really needed it.

By Nate Brown—BYU College of Nursing public relations assistant

Honor Flight: In-Flight Scare

Brief Highlights of a College-Sponsored Utah Honor Flight, Part Three

The second memorable incident on the plane was an in-flight medical concern. Every Honor Flight recruits two medics to serve as in-flight medical staff. The medics for this trip were Kathy Thatcher (AS ’82, BS ’89) and Dr. Blad.

About 20 minutes into the flight, one of the guardians turned to the person near her and reported that she did not feel well—then suddenly passed out. The individual sitting next to her happened to be BYU College of Nursing dean and professor Patricia Ravert (AS ’74, BS ’75, MS ’94), who was also participating in the trip as a guardian.

Ravert summoned Blad, and with his help they were able to lay the woman down in the aisle of the commercial airplane. Blad quickly gathered a collection of medical devices to check the patient’s oxygen, heart-rate, and blood-pressure levels—which all appeared normal. But each time the patient tried to sit up, she would pass out again.

The flight attendants used a radio headset to communicate directly to a physician on the ground. Information was relayed back and forth until the situation improved and the woman regained her strength. She spent the remainder of the flight reclined across two seats, with her feet elevated on Blad’s lap.

“The roar of the airplane’s engine made it quite difficult to hear an accurate heartbeat,” Blad says. “It was also a challenge that I could not speak directly to the doctor—only airline employees could relay information. I had the power to divert the flight to seek emergency care but not to share details of my assessment.”

Some would say this was the safest flight in history given the fact that there were four BYU College of Nursing faculty, two nursing alumni, and 13 nursing students onboard—all trained and ready to assist if needed.

Read more about the three-day experience as additional posts on this blog.

Honor Flight: Mail Call

Brief Highlights of a College-Sponsored Utah Honor Flight, Part Two

On the morning of Thursday, May 28, a group of 50 veterans, some family members, and 50 guardians (dedicated staff members each assigned to a veteran) gathered at the Utah State Fair Park for a sendoff. A U.S. Army band greeted them, and Brigadier General Kenneth L. Gammon addressed the assembly before the group boarded buses and went to the airport, escorted by the Patriot Guard Riders of Utah—a diverse group of riders who have an unwavering respect for veterans.

Military escorts provided by the Utah Army National Guard, as well as a group of bagpipe players from the Utah Pipe Band, accompanied the group to the gate. While traveling through the airport the veterans—from World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War—received standing ovations and cheers along with occasional salutes and handshakes from complete strangers. These strangers (who were all busy travelers themselves) took the opportunity to show respect to this group of four women and 46 men and to offer their unsolicited appreciation.

This public show of gratitude was repeated in the Baltimore Airport and at all places the group visited during their tour. Many people value patriotism and the freedoms they experience each day due to the efforts of these honored veterans.

11148591_421411598050246_6896323674356103257_nTwo unique experiences occurred during the flight. The first event involved the tradition of an in-flight mail call—the Honor Flight version of the American military postal system where veterans receive letters from home. Prior to the trip each guardian worked with the veteran’s family members to gather and obtain notes and letters from loved ones; they also received messages and cards from local elementary-school students whose principal wanted to show her school’s support.

Imagine unexpectedly being handed a large envelope that contains a collection of personal messages from your spouse, children, grandchildren, siblings, and friends. For most of the veterans, the flood of emotions and recollections was great, and they were unable to hold back tears. Passengers on the flight who were not associated with the group also found themselves teary-eyed and touched with the kindness reflected in the letters and drawings.

While these messages were unique to each individual, many contained the same sentiments, which could be heard as they were read aloud in the cabin:

“I send my respect, admiration, and honor . . . ”

“You are my hero!”

“It is a privilege to be your son.”

“I am proud to be your daughter.”

“I value your leadership and strength.”

“You displayed fearlessness and fought despite fears . . .”

“Thanks for placing God and country before your needs.”

“Your devotion to others has taught love, unity, and compassion.”

“You are a leader not only to peers but to the community and our family.”

“Your influence to our nation cannot be measured nor truly understood.”

“I appreciate your being a role model for many generations.”

“You sacrificed to preserve values of this great nation.”

“Most people today have no sense of the hardship, the devotion, or what it took to keep freedom accessible in this country.”

“You have an immense dedication to the nation.”

“You preserved the rights of others.”

Read more about the three-day experience as additional posts on this blog.

To Know Them Is to Care For Them Better

Brief Highlights of a College-Sponsored Utah Honor Flight

This year the BYU College of Nursing celebrated a decade of offering the veteran section of the clinical practicum for Public and Global Health Nursing—a unique class dedicated to helping nursing students learn how to serve and care for veterans. The college marked this occasion by cosponsoring an Honor Flight in May that allowed 17 veterans to visit and reflect at their war memorials in Washington, DC. The Utah Honor Flight, a Utah-based nonprofit, sponsored the remainder of the flight (33 veterans). The national Honor Flight organization has 127 hubs in 41 states and has included more than 98,500 veterans in the program since 2005; the Utah group has sent 500 veterans since 2013.

“When the course began in 2005 BYU had the only nursing program in the country that dedicated a semester to caring for veterans,” says associate teaching professor Ron Ulberg. “Other nursing schools are now pushing for veteran-care classes, but the BYU program certainly leads the way.”

Associate dean and teaching professor Dr. Kent Blad (MS ’99) believes the veteran population needs to be understood the most. “As a nurse you may encounter patients in the hospital from Tonga, Ecuador, or Taiwan—other locations our global health students learn from,” says Blad. “However, with the Gulf Wars, you are more likely to care for a veteran with little difference in age, ability, and need; they may be no older than the caregiver. Learning who they are and what they have experienced will help a nurse to better care for them.”

Blad and Ulberg—both veterans themselves—instruct the veteran section each spring term, in which nursing students are taught how to care for the veteran population and then spend a week in Washington, DC, learning firsthand from various veterans and veteran groups, historical sites and clinical settings.

Last fall these professors participated in an Honor Flight, and at its conclusion, they desired that nursing students have the opportunity to serve as program guardians—providing constant companionship to each veteran as well as offering hygiene, restroom, medicinal, and other support.

“We thought, ‘How better to expose our students to the unique culture of our veterans than to have them spend three days learning from and serving these individuals?’” says Blad. Through the help of a grant from the university and donations from caring alumni and friends of the college, funds were obtained to cover the cost for both the sponsored veterans and for the students and support staff.

Watch Utah Honor Flight in 60-seconds video

Read more about the three-day experience as additional posts on this blog.

The newest College of Nursing class makes the grade

New students practice with stethoscopes in class.  Both Collin and Kourtney are on the third row from the bottom.

New students practice with stethoscopes in class. Both Collin and Kourtney are on the third row from the bottom on the left.

The incoming class at the College of Nursing is looking like one of the smartest yet.

The newcomers have an impressive academic record with an average GPA of 3.9 and an average ACT score of 30. A total of 48 new students and 14 returning missionaries have come from all over the country to be a part of the BYU nursing program.

Even though the majority of students accepted were female, the College of Nursing still has a higher number of male students than most other nursing programs.

One of five men accepted into the program, Collin Janke from Columbus, Ohio is excited to get started. “It’s really funny being the minority, it’s definitely a different dynamic,” he said. ”Sometimes people treat me a little funny for being a male nurse.  I get a lot of jokes but it’s fine, it’s totally worth it.”

Chosen out of 153 applicants, these students made it through the competitive application process and will continue to follow their passion for nursing at BYU. “I chose nursing because I really wanted to do something to help people, to serve them,” said Kourtney Ashton, American Fork native. “I always wanted to be a teacher but when I watched medical shows it didn’t gross me out, so I thought I could maybe do something with that.”

One of the first skills students learn is assessing blood pressure. This Tuesday, September 15, the college will sponsor a blood pressure clinic for students to gain experience. Check our Facebook page for times and locations.