This article by Rachel Peters was featured in the Fall 2014 edition of the college magazine.
For Debra Edmunds (BS ’03), MSN, RN, CNE, the call to nursing is deeply personal.
“I would say a defining event was giving birth to a stillborn baby,” says Edmunds, an assistant teaching professor in the College of Nursing. During her stay at the hospital, she realized that no one knew quite what to do or say, and she was ultimately offered very little support to cope with her loss. This experience led her to realize, “I want to be a nurse that makes a difference.”
After her youngest child turned four, Edmunds began her university coursework for the first time. She received two associate’s degrees in nursing and health sciences from Salt Lake Community College, a bachelor’s in psychology from BYU in 2003, and a master’s in nursing education from the University of Utah in 2007.
As a nontraditional student and mother of five daughters and two living sons, Edmunds actively encourages women to pursue an education. “It’s never too late,” she says. “There’s still plenty of time to work, even if you don’t go to college until your 30s or 40s. I always offer support to women who are thinking of going back to school or changing careers.”
Beyond the realm of education, Edmunds uses healing as a way to empower and validate women.
“I spent many years working in a women’s health clinic,” says Edmunds. “Women’s health is more than providing encouragement and education; it is supporting and respecting each other’s choices and individual circumstances. There’s a season and an opportunity at different stages of life to contribute in different ways.”
One of her favorite quotes is from Oprah Winfrey: “God can dream a bigger dream for you than you could ever dream for yourself. Success comes when you surrender to that dream— and let it lead you to the next best place.” For Edmunds, nurturing women through maternity nursing roles brings happiness.
Because of her own experiences with labor and delivery, Edmunds knows firsthand what her patients are going through. “Bringing life experiences to the clinical setting allows me to share personal insights with others,” she says. “I’m able to provide bereavement support to help grieving moms realize and acknowledge that their sorrow is very real.”
She has written several unpublished poems that focus on the loss of a baby, some coauthored with her husband, Gary. The second stanza of her poem “Don’t Skip Past the Pain” reads:
There’s no easy shortcut to bypass the grief,
But your pathway will lead to a place of relief.
Embrace every moment both awesome and plain,
Make way for His peace—don’t skip past the pain.
In the College of Nursing, Edmunds codirects the refugee and immigrant section of the clinical practicum for Public and Global Health Nursing. During spring term, her students work with individuals who recently came to the United States. Some of these immigrants speak limited English, have few possessions, and need access to medical and dental care. Edmunds empowers her students to help these individuals improve themselves, and she works closely with caseworkers to find solutions when needed. (See a video featuring the refugee work of Edmunds and her students at nursing.byu.edu.) She also teaches Preview of Nursing as well as Nursing Care of Women and Newborns.
“My time at BYU has taught me that learning is spiritual and intellectual,” she says. “I am grateful to be able to assist those seeking maternal/newborn and women’s health nursing care.