Monthly Archives: April 2017

Looking Back: Two Nursing Students Reflect As They Graduate

Spencer Marsh


Spencer Marsh did not know what he wanted to be when he entered BYU in 2010. He took Econ 110 and calculus, but when he left for his mission he was still unsure about where the future would take him.

His mission to the Navajo reservation in Farmington, New Mexico helped him narrow down his options.

“On my mission we helped out a lot of people, and we did a lot of service projects,” Marsh says. Marsh found that he enjoyed helping people, but he still wanted to make a living.

When he returned, nursing suddenly became a viable option since it combined service with a steady salary. After two semesters, Marsh got in the nursing program. That’s when the intensive and occasionally draining experience known as nursing school started.

“It’s been busy, just a lot of work,” he says.

Marsh, a native of Portland, Oregon, struggled during his first two semesters to adjust to the strenuous workload. However, he made an important choice that allowed him to make it through the program.

“After the first two semesters, I decided that I needed to relax and go enjoy life, and the semesters after that were a lot better,” he says.

An avid outdoorsman, Marsh can often be found outdoors climbing or hiking.


Looking back on the past few years, Marsh sees ways that his experience in the College of Nursing has changed him. He loved working with everyone in his semester and doing the various labs in the Mary Jane Rawlins Geertsen Nursing Learning Center. Completing his capstone in ER also helped Marsh learn to love patients rather than judge them.

“It made me more compassionate,” he says. “It made me look at the world differently. It’s made me a little less cynical about the world.” His supervisor also allowed him to work somewhat independently, preparing for his future career.

After taking the NCLEX, Marsh will move to Temple, Texas to work as an ER nurse. His wife is scheduled to give birth to their first child shortly after they arrive there.

Marsh’s advice to incoming nursing students is to “chill out.” Doing so will help them focus and get the most out of their college experience.

“Study and go do fun things,” he says. “Don’t just study.”

Ashea Hanna


Ashea Hanna does not mince words when she talks about her entrance to the BYU College of Nursing.

“I honestly believe it was divine intervention,” she says.

Now three years later, she looks back on her time in the program and sees how far she has come.

“I’ve always wanted to go into healthcare because I knew that’s where I wanted to be,” she says. She had considered being a doctor, but the years and years of study seemed daunting. Her mother recommended nursing. At first she was reluctant since she thought nurses were constantly being bossed around by doctors. Now, she jokes with a smile, she knows “nurses do all the real work.”

She finally decided to pursue nursing since it offered a steady job and the chance to have a family. Her decision was confirmed repeatedly to her as she progressed through the program. One of her most important experiences was sitting in Gaye Raye’s 294 class and realizing just how much this career path suited her.

That’s not to say that the experience has been easy.

“I think that it has challenged me academically, mentally, and physically and emotionally,” she says. “It’s pushed me to my limits and helped me see farther than my potential.”

The sheer intensity of studying nursing helped her to see more of who she is. It’s reaffirmed a lot of what she thought about herself and her abilities, and in other ways it has increased her vision of what she can accomplish.

“It’s shaped me and molded me into who I am,” she says.

One of her best resources has been her fellow students. She says that she loves everyone in her semester and that she has been privileged to make many close friends within the program.

For new students, she offers advice similar to Marsh’s.

“There’s a lot of stress coming in because it’s a prestigious and challenging program and you’re set to a high expectation separate from BYU itself, but you have to take care of yourself,” she says. “The 4.0, even though it’s a nice number, don’t let that be the only thing.”

In her spare time, Hanna goes to ward activities, plays sports, and spends time with friends. She also works. All this combines to help relieve her of the stress that is typical of the program.

Hanna is currently sorting through various job opportunities and working to decide which is best for her.

The BYU College of Humanities Teaches Me Two Languages; The BYU College of Nursing Taught Me Another

When I was offered the Public Relations Assistant position for the BYU College of Nursing Dean’s office, I had no idea that my experience learning a second language would come in handy.

I am an English and Portuguese double major. I served my mission in Curitiba, Brazil where I first learned Portuguese, and I now study the language every day. While I haven’t once had the privilege to use my Portuguese language skills in the office or on assignment, I have used the skills I acquired while learning the language.

Nursing has its own set of words, a different vocabulary list if you will. Every day I come into the office and learn a new set of words whether about anatomy, about treatment, or about the organization of the nursing program itself. Just like a foreigners accept you while you struggle to speak their language, the faculty, staff, and students of the College of Nursing accepted me while learning to navigate the tower, the Mary Jane Rawlins Geertsen Nursing Learning Center, and the lingo.

In every interview I held, I had to ask questions to clarify basic nursing concepts and nursing programs. Frequently I had to Google definitions. Some days were harder than others were; however, I will always remember my experience learning this new language.

While I was learning new terms and definitions, I was also exposed to an environment of love and mutual support. The College of Nursing claims to be teaching the Healer’s art, and from my experience talking with faculty, staff, and students, that teaching is fulfilled. The students have a wonderful source of professors and advisors to look to for help. These professors and advisors not only teach and guide here at BYU but they also do clinicals on top of having their own families.

The language that I learned here does not only incorporate terms and definitions, but also behavior and practice. Nurses are incredible, and I hope that if I ever need to go to the hospital that I will be in the care of a BYU nurse. Their language is love and respect. I hope to one day become fluent in this language of mutual support and perfect charity, so that I to can practice a form of the Healer’s art.

“Discovered in Argentina”

As a part of the 50th anniversary of the BYU College of Nursing, a book was compiled called “The Healer’s Art: 50 stories for 50 years.” It has been 15 years since this book was first published and these stories were shared. We plan to regularly post selections from this book to help each of us remember and cherish the experiences of nursing and learning the Healer’s art. 


Discovered in Argentina

Rachel Contreras-Spencer (BS ’04)

Once in a while everyone has one of those incredible experiences where one learns there is more to nursing than just the application of secular knowledge. I had the opportunity to experience such a moment in Argentina while working at a public maternity hospital. I learned to go beyond what I had learned in nursing school and discovered something that cannot be taught. Seemingly forgotten, those babies in the “abandoned” section have taught me more than they’ll ever know and will live on in my memory forever.

I had the privilege of going as a BYU nursing student to work in a maternity hospital in Argentina. The hospital was one like I had imagined it would be in a second or third world country. It had six or seven floors, old tile, broken windows, no toilet paper or soap for the patients or doctors, about one nurse for every forty-plus mothers, and one nurse for every sixteen-plus intensive care infants. There were no private rooms to rejoice in when the newborn was delivered into this world. There were no private rooms for mothers to grieve in when they experienced the loss of their creation.

I had worked in the labor room and the post partum floors; on my last day, it was finally my turn to help in the NICU. I started feeding the babies and taking temperatures. When I was finished, a corner of the room caught my eye. I asked about the babies in this section, and learned they were there because they were sick and/or abandoned.

It was known as the abandoned section because many of the parents of the sick babies couldn’t afford to pay for medical costs. Parents were left with no alternative but to leave their child there in the hands of the government who would then pay to have them treated, if they didn’t die first. The price parents paid was to never be able to see their child again. Once they signed the paper, they weren’t allowed to visit or care for their child. Unfortunately, if the mother was not there to take care of her baby, it was usually the last task of the day for the nurses. Their priority was in taking care of the babies who had parents who could pay for needed medical treatments, so these were the forgotten or “abandoned” ones.

The first one I came across was named Jose Ariel, and he indeed looked as though he had been forgotten. He had a heart abnormality and was lying in a little metal basket with a wet sheet, which reeked of emesis. He was not wearing any clothes and his diaper was overflowing. I fed him, cleaned him up, and gave him one of the blankets and clothing articles which I brought from generous people back home. He loved the attention and was able to fall right to sleep.

I then moved on to Ivan, who had hydrocephalus. He was three months old at the time and was scheduled to have a shunt placed within the next two days. The pressure that had built up was incredible. He had “sundowner’s eyes” so severe that I could see only the whites of his eyes. His head weighed about twice as much as the rest of his body, and Ivan had not developed neck muscles strong enough to hold up his head.

I went over, picked him up and cradled him in my arms. I noticed the towel he’d been laying on was also wet, only it had no odor. I bathed him, clothed him and held him. I had also been watching his temperature and noticed there was a steady increase. It had gone up to 101.4. I spoke with some of the other student nurses who had been in there before, and they told me that a day or two before, the nurses had tried to relieve some of the pressure in Ivan’s head by getting a little of the fluid out with a syringe needle, but they neglected to place a bandage on his head. It soon occurred to me that the sheet was wet with cerebral spinal fluid.

I notified the pediatrician and she said she’d be there when she finished making rounds. For me it seemed like an eternity. She confirmed that Ivan was leaking spinal fluid and most likely had an infection because his wound was left uncovered. Concerned about Ivan’s upcoming surgery, I asked if it was likely they would go ahead and operate anyway. She replied it would be up to the surgeon.

When my arms grew tired of holding him, I tried to put him down, but he just cried uncontrollably.  He loved being held, as if he had been starved for human contact. I had another student nurse hold him while I went to look for a bottle, which was no easy task. Returning about a half hour later, I held and fed him. He was ravenously hungry. I held him for hours and was able to feed him again before I left. I was the last to leave the unit and my fellow students waited for me in the van. No one came in to hurry me along, because there was an unspoken understanding.

While I held Ivan, I had plenty of time to think and reflect. I wondered what the future held for him. I watched as he lay complacently in my arms and wondered what kind of perfect spirit was inside his imperfect body. I played out in my mind the day I would be able to meet him in his perfect form after this life, and how happy I would be to see him, hug him, and talk to him. I reflected on how much I had been given in my life and how much I therefore was obligated to give. I thought about the Savior and how He loves all of God’s children.

I loved that I had the opportunity to help ease his great pain, if only for a day. The care I provided was not medical by definition; it was compassion and love. I loved that I was able to help the helpless. I know that if I had not been there as a student giving service, Ivan wouldn’t have been held and comforted. I would not have had the opportunity to show him there was someone who cared. I would have missed the lesson of a lifetime. It reaffirmed to me that I was supposed to be a nurse. I know of no greater profession wherein lies the opportunity to help heal others, both physically and spiritually.

My heart and mind go back to that place often and wonder if he ever made it to surgery and through recovery. I have since made a commitment to myself and to those I serve, that I will serve them as the Savior would serve them if He were here in my place. I want to convey to them my concern for their well being whether it is medical, emotional, or otherwise. I want them to know they are important. I want to learn The Healer’s Art, and my journey has just begun.

Oh, It’s a Jolly Holiday with Leslie! Yoga and Fingerpainting Are Back In Style In Nursing Relaxation

Note: To offer more insight into the lives of nursing students, we are sending Steven, a writer for the College of Nursing, to the weekly Nursing Stress Management Course. Steven is a Middle East Studies/Arabic major. This post contains the summaries of two of the previous classes, with the first focusing on yoga and the second on fingerpainting.

Part One: On Pain, Reflexology, and Yoga Nidra

I showed up to the stress management class excited, ready to finger-paint. I noticed quickly that everyone was wearing comfortable clothes, and was informed that there had been a change. It was now yoga day, and I was in jeans.


Students prepare to follow instructor Maria in yoga.

Yoga and I have always had an interesting relationship. Once while visiting the mission doctor, his wife had made me do intensive yoga while I waited, a process that just barely fell short of violating the eighth amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

I thought that I had escaped, but I was later called in to translate for a meeting with her and my mission president, in which to my horror I found myself communicating my mission president’s desire for her to teach yoga to the entire mission. That’s how the Chile Santiago North Mission found itself doing yoga at zone conferences in suits and ties, and how I became a wanted man.

For the class, we had an instructor named Maria who teaches therapeutic yoga as a way to help patients recover from medical issues. Maybe, just maybe, she could de-stress a bunch of Type A nursing students and an Arabic major doing yoga in a button up.

We started by rolling a racquetball under our feet. This was based on the ideas of reflexology, a school of thought that says that points on the hands and feet are connected to the rest of the body. By relieving those points, you can relieve other areas like the back.


Students massage their feet with racquetballs. Reflexology says that this will help them take pressure off various points in their bodies.

Now came real yoga. We did moves that aimed to help our muscles relax. We bent over, twisted, and performed various motions. Through it all, I found myself slowly starting to feel a bit less tense. All the while, Maria explained the benefit of each move. At one point, she told assistant teaching professor Leslie Miles that we would be working on something to help her back.

“Yay, we’re going to fix me!” she cried out in glee. We all were repeating that statement in our heads.


Maria shows students how to prepare for the puppy pose.

One of our final move combinations was first to put our legs against the wall and leave them there for several minutes. Then we laid on our backs and adjusted our feet so that our backs had less pressure.

That was when it happened—I suddenly felt asleep, but I was awake. It was a weird, halfway point. I stayed in that immensely relaxed state for a few minutes until it was time to get up, upon which Maria informed me that I had been in yoga nidra. I’m still not sure what that means, but it was nice.

By the end of the session, I felt more relaxed, as usual. This class is so helpful for figuring out the ways to de-stress that best work for each person.

Now, if you come across me with my legs propped against the wall not talking, just keep walking. It’s just yoga nidra.


Part Two: Oh, It’s a Jolly Holiday with Leslie!

It was the afternoon. Students milled around, hauling large sheets of paper and eagerly grabbing the paint. Fingers were saturated in orange, blue, red, yellow, and purple as they worked to create masterpieces. Sometimes it got on the desks, but the teacher was used to this.

Spoiler: this isn’t a kindergarten class. This is nursing stress management, and I may or not have been the main culprit behind the paint on the desk (I cleaned it up!).


Students gather supplies for painting and coloring.

Assistant teaching professor Leslie Miles had brought in lots of paper, both to color and to fingerpaint. Everyone was excited. Today was art and music therapy day, possibly the most anticipated class of the term.

After reviewing our stress levels in groups, we proceeded to discuss how music aids relaxation. Miles explained that not all music is equal in this area—songs with various chord changes are better suited than many modern songs, which are simply repetitive. She impersonated a rap song, but my life would be in jeopardy if I dared repeat it here.

With that, we each got our supplies and began our artistic adventures. In the background, Miles was blaring one of her favorite albums—the original Mary Poppins soundtrack.

I began a relentless campaign to replace every white spot on my paper with some color. In the end, my creation resembled many of my friends returning home from the Festival of Colors.

Others, however, were superbly done. Miles was surprised at the quality of the artwork, and I was surprised at how each student seemed to be focused wholly on the project and not any impending nursing deadlines.

I could go on, but pictures here do more justice than words.




BYU Nursing Alumni Consistently Satisfied with Their Education

Every year, BYU sends out a survey to all alumni who graduated three years prior. In 2015, the graduating class of 2012 was asked about their satisfaction with BYU and their respective college.  After receiving numerous responses, BYU compiled the data and informed each college about their performance.

Over the past 12 years, between 94-97% of alumni rated their BYU experience as good or excellent, with 88% stating they would “probably or definitely” choose BYU again if given the choice.

BYU nursing alumni had the highest satisfaction rate with their major, with 100% of graduate alumni and 99% of undergraduate alumni stating that the nursing program developed their commitment to professional standards of practice.



Students study in one of the Mary Jane Rawlins Geertson Nursing Learning Center



Additionally, 99% of alumni expressed that in-class training prepared them for clinical. Specifically, when asked about the Mary Jane Rawlins Geertsen Nursing Learning Center, 100% of surveyed alumni felt that it helped bridge the gap between the classroom and clinical.

Respondents also said that their clinical experience prepared them for professional practice. Of those mentored by faculty, 97% felt that this collaborative opportunity was influential in their education.

Overall, both undergraduates and graduates have been highly satisfied with education at the BYU College of Nursing. The faculty and staff strive to increase these percentages and continue to give students the best educational experience as they learn the Healer’s art.


2880 x 1800

Beanies of Love

Nursing students have the opportunity to serve many people by fulfilling their clinical assignments. The following is a touching story contributed by Janet Bergera, an instructor of one of these clinical sections. 

While BYU College of Nursing students are serving our country’s veterans at the Mervyn Sharp Bennion Central Utah Veteran’s Home in Payson, one of those veterans is giving back.  This 86-old Navy veteran (name withheld for HIPAA reasons) has, for the past two semesters, knitted BYU blue and white beanie caps for each of the students doing their N292 clinicals at this facility.


He initially started making these beanies as a way to identify students at a BYU football game. This project turned into an act of love resulting in 32 beanies so far, including one for their clinical instructor, Janet Bergera, RN MSN.

It takes him about two days to complete each hat, knitted on a small plastic loom, and if he makes a mistake, he undoes the stitching and starts over.  When his yarn supply gets low, the instructor or one of the students will replenish it, making sure the colors are just right.


This act of service is not limited to nursing students either.  This octogenarian has knitted beanie hats for staff members, newborns of staff members, and fellow residents at the Veteran’s Home.  His eyes sparkle with glee and his grin is wide as he turns over these handmade gifts.  A hug or handshake is all the payment he will accept.

He truly exemplifies the motto of the facility he now calls home, “Service Before Self.”

Texas NSNA Convention Lets SNA Board Represent BYU at National Level

Today, Wednesday, April 5, 2017, the BYU Student Nurses Association board are attending the 2017 National Student Nurses Association convention in Dallas, Texas. This year, the BYU team is bringing both dancing shoes for a country hoedown and extra votes with which to influence NSNA policy at the event.

The NSNA convention is a yearly gathering where NSNA members from across the country receive training, vote on bylaws and resolutions, and elect new NSNA officials. Thanks to new initiatives by the BYU SNA board, they now have three votes to use on each resolution.

“With every fifty members of NSNA we have, we get one delegate,” Jessica Small, BYU SNA president, says. “This past year, we’ve been working towards involving our students not only in our local chapter, but at the national level.”

One student, Heather Merrill, is running for a national position in NSNA, with fellow board member Sarah Megan running her campaign. Megan is excited not only for the legislative and election aspects of the convention, but also the chance to learn from other schools.

“I think for me the most exciting thing is that we’ll really get to bond with each other and learn how to work as a board, and get lots of good ideas from a national standpoint of what other people are doing and be able to incorporate that here in our own SNA at BYU,” she says.

Chelsy Foulk, one of the board’s vice presidents, agrees.

“I just think it will be cool to see how different schools approach the same things we’re approaching, and I think it will be good to get leadership experience,” she says.

The multi-day convention offers the BYU board the opportunity to come together as they decide their position on issues and work to positively represent BYU.

“We’re just hoping that this is going to be helpful to become a great cohesive group and learn how to be better leaders,” Small says. “That’s really the ultimate goal of this.”

“I think that we want to portray that [nursing] is more than just grades and being the top of the class and being on all these boards. It’s about who you are as a person,” Foulk adds.