It was January 1991, during the Persian Gulf War. Another Iraqi Scud missile had just been knocked out of the sky by an American Patriot missile battery, a regular event given that Saddam Hussein’s forces were lobbing dozens of missiles at coalition troops. Some might have found the massive explosions unsettling—for military nurse Kent Blad, however, they ensured that he would sleep calmly that night, knowing that his odds of being hit by an Iraqi projectile were being significantly reduced.
Fast-forward twenty-six years to 2017, a year that marks two important milestones for Dr. Blad, now BYU College of Nursing associate dean. In June, it will be his 30th year as a registered nurse. Second, it is the end of his five-year term as associate dean, after which he will continue to teach as a professor. It will be one more transition in a career that has spanned decades and seen Blad serving everywhere from Provo to Saudi Arabia.
Interestingly, Blad didn’t start off studying nursing. He at first was majoring in pre-med to become an orthopedic surgeon. However, once he got married he started to have second thoughts about being a surgeon.
“When I got married, I figured I wanted to be married to this woman, not to a profession,” he says.
Blad as a military nurse
His older brother was a military nurse, and his example helped Blad decide to enlist in the military and concurrently enroll in nursing school. He worked as a military operating room technician to pay his way, and once he had his degree he was made an officer. He served in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, where he had the harrowing experience of listening to Scud missiles streak across the sky. However, he was not injured during the war and was able to serve his country faithfully.
Blad left the military two years after the Persian Gulf War ended, and by this point, nursing was in his blood.
“The more I got into it, the more I obtained a passion for it because I soon realized that not only is it a profession, but it’s a service profession where you spend your whole life serving others,” Blad says.
For ten years, he worked at the George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salt Lake City, primarily in critical care. He then enrolled at BYU to get his master’s degree, which opened up new, unexpected doors to him. Immediately upon graduation, he was offered a job to work in the College, which he accepted.
This was in 1999, and he describes the following years as “18 wonderful years, not without their share of challenges, but certainly with many, many blessings.”
The first few were spent teaching, until 2012 when Dr. Patricia Ravert, the newly installed dean, asked him to serve as one of two associate deans in the college. He accepted, undertaking the many responsibilities that come with being an associate dean.
“There was never a time that I was able to just sit around and stare out the window,” he says. Blad’s duties include supervising the Nursing Learning Center and the advisement center, distributing faculty assignments, managing the curriculum, and attending various university meetings, all on top of continuing to teach classes and contributing to the discipline.
One of Blad’s biggest pieces of advice to both faculty and students is to find balance, stressing the fact that nothing should come before their top three priorities, namely their family, their well-being, and their religion. He had to take his own advice in this new job, constantly evaluating his life to see how he could better prioritize his time.
Despite the difficulty of managing so many different tasks, there have been numerous positive impacts that Blad can see in the past five years, mainly due to the cooperation between members of administration and the College faculty.
For one thing, the College just passed its accreditation review with no negative recommendations. The Mary Jane Rawlinson Geertsen Nursing Learning Center was completed and is now running smoothly. Blad has also had the satisfying privilege of helping distribute increased scholarship funds to deserving students and helping coordinate teacher-student mentoring. The past five years have also seen a focus on promoting professionalism and courtesy among the faculty, which Blad says has created a wonderful working environment.
“That’s the thing I’m going to miss the most as a leader is that comradery and the love that you share with your peers,” Blad says. “We have tremendously excellent faculty. In my travels around the country, it is seconded by no other faculty in the US. We have the top faculty that can be put together.”
One of Blad’s biggest contributions to the College is also one of his biggest passions: treating veterans. Blad was the one who in 2005 recommended that one of the clinical practicums for the Public and Global Health nursing course be focused on treating veterans, and since then the program has become the leading program of its kind in the United States.
“It’s pretty special,” he says. “It’s a satisfaction in my career that is matched by nothing else.”
Outside of work, Blad spends most of his time either with family or as a bishopric member in a YSA ward. He and his wife have seven children, and eleven grandchildren. Now that he will have more time, he expects them to continue old family traditions like camping, hiking, and picnicking. Blad also enjoys doing yard work and gardening.