Monthly Archives: June 2017

You can accomplish difficult things

Image courtesy Island Photography, Inc.

Dr. Mary Williams addressing nursing students at April 2017 convocation.

Unlike perhaps any other College at Brigham Young University, the College of Nursing was established at the request of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Think about this, prophets of God asked BYU to take up the torch held high by the early Relief Society Nursing Program and then LDS Hospital School of Nursing.

I have been at the College of Nursing for a long time now, and I know Heaven’s eye is ever focused on this College. I have watched miracles occur here. I have watched as exceptionally, well-qualified faculty, who understand our mission, have been drawn almost in a spiritual sense to this College in fulfillment of a promise given to former dean June Leifson by President Henry D. Eyring, at a time of faculty shortage.

He promised that if she were prayerful, faculty who were meant to be here would come and they have. Why? Because faculty are needed who are role models for students, who are the best in their field and bring the spirit into all they do. The Savior cares deeply about his children and knows you can be instruments in blessing their lives.

Each of us has been invited and commanded to follow the Master Healer to be his hands. No other profession on this earth more closely allows you to walk in the Master’s footsteps. To use your hands as he did.

You more than any profession are in similar situations and with similar people to that of the Savior—those who yearn for comfort, healing, and peace; the gifts he so freely gave; your pathway is one of discipleship.

You have been educated at a College where we teach, we learn and practice the Healer’s art. Not just any Healer but the Master Healer. Such an education requires that minds, and hearts, and hands be educated. Your minds have been expanded to think critically, and problem solve using the best evidence. Your hands have been trained to perform skills with precision, and your hearts have been tutored by the Master Healer to provide compassionate care.

In a devotional given by Sister Bonnie D. Parkin, former General Relief Society President, she talked about personal ministries, calling them sacred. She posed the question, “We often speak about the Savior’s Ministry, but have you ever wondered if you have a personal ministry?”

I testify you do. As you consider your personal ministry, make your profession part of it, your practice will take on new meaning, and you will practice differently.

Florence Nightingale viewed her practice as a sacred call when she said, “God has spoken to me and called me to His service.” You must be in tune with the Master Healer. Your ministry will be made sacred and holy as you invite the spirit each day into your practice.

Nurses are invited into life’s most intimate experiences that encompass birth and death and pain and suffering. These can be the most difficult and challenging times. Nurses are there, minute by minute making such a difference to the patient and their families.

It was not until a few years ago that I truly understood the influence of a nurse. I was diagnosed with cancer which necessitated surgery and the grueling experience of chemotherapy. I had taught about cancer and provided comfort to those who were experiencing cancer treatment. I thought I understood. But now I was experiencing overwhelming feelings of fear, uncertainty, discomfort, and the unknown. I was no longer the nurse but the frightened patient. In the quest for something to calm my troubled heart, I came to know the reassurance that only the Master Healer can bring.

I experienced every tender mercy at his hand, but it was often by those who quietly and vigilantly ministered to me. In the initial days, it was the nurse who was there during my restless nights to reassure me, to listen to me, to provide hope. As I experienced chemo, another nurse calmed me with her quiet presence. I came to know the power of a nurse to bring healing and comfort.

I want to remind you that you will make a difference because you can do difficult things. You have done them the last four years. You will be leaders in the healthcare system, community leaders, mothers, fathers, wives and husbands and builders of the Kingdom. Let faith and courage permeate your lives rather than fear and doubt.

I had an experience several years ago that taught me that you could do the impossible if only you believe—believe in yourself and believe in the source of all strength and power, the Savior of the world. My nephew was graduating from Southern Utah University. As part of the festivities, the family decided that they were going to go to a nearby canyon to repel. I am terrified of heights, and so planned to spend time in the beauties of nature, playing with the grandchildren, and observing others getting an endorphin rush by going over the edge of the cliff.

Suddenly the situation completely changed. I think it must have been a moment of hypoxia. With the persistent efforts of my family, they convinced me that I needed to participate in this experience. The more they encouraged me to do this the more frightened I became—and believe me my sympathetic nervous system was in full force.

Then a remarkable thing happened. My good friend who was with us said, “I will do this with you.” My nephew who was experienced in repelling also said, “And I will go between you and be your guide.”

I was soon harnessed but kept thinking this is the stupidest thing I had ever done. Gloves on hands, my friend equally harnessed, we stood with our backs to the edge of the cliff ready to go off into oblivion.

We said encouraging words to each other as we walked back over the cliff holding with all our might to the rope. My nephew encouraged us as we went down the mountain side, and reminded us to look heavenward. My life passed before me as I felt the tremendous pull on my arms, my legs, wondering if I had the strength to do this. Finally, I remember hitting the ground.

Talk about an endorphin rush. I screamed ‘We did it!’ and a freeing feeling of doing something I feared engulfed me. Indeed my life had been changed forever.

I learned many things that day. I learned you can do something you have never done before if you only have the courage to try. I learned others can help you have the courage to try. I learned it is important to keep your eyes focused heaven upward for that is the source of strength and comfort. I learned that faith, not fear and doubt are the sources of great power. I learned as the rope served as my security, the iron rod likewise—if held tightly and consistently will bring you to safety and the greatest of all gifts, the love of God.

My dear graduates, you are so needed. As this world darkens with evil and despair, you will be the balm in Gilead; you will bring healing in your wings, you will carry the light of Christ and the spirit of the Y throughout the world. You will lead with faith and integrity. You will invite the spirit into all you do. You will continue to gain knowledge and wisdom.

Follow the admonition of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, former president of Brigham Young University who said to a group of students in 1985, “Let the lamp of your education drive back the borders of darkness.” I see your lamps leaving this University… brightly lit and held high. And remember you are a graduate of Brigham Young University College of Nursing.

Dr. Mary Williams spoke at the April 2017 college convocation.

Watch a video spotlight on Mary Williams

The Stillborn

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. 


The Stillborn

Tyrone Brown

We often think of the nurse who has The Healer’s Art, but on this particular day, it was two patients that touched my heart. Three years ago, my life plan took a dramatic change. I was a football player for Brigham Young University, a nationally ranked division I team. Like many players, I had the dream of playing in the National Football League. During my sophomore year I suffered an injury that caused two herniated discs in my lower back and ended my career as a football player. Not only was my dream cut short, it was completely obliterated. Despite this unfortunate event, I was a firm believer that other doors will open when one closes.

I had a close friend who encouraged me to go into nursing. I courageously, and with an extreme alteration to my ego, acted upon his advice! I applied to and was accepted into the nursing program at BYU.

After about half a year in the program I was going into the clinical rotation that I dreaded most: Labor and delivery. This is where my story begins. You see, I’m six-foot-three, male, muscular, African American, and bald (by choice). Sometimes I see myself in the mirror and I get scared! I was terrified that the patients and other nurses would be so afraid of me, they would ask me to leave the room or wait outside the door during my time there. Most of all I thought, “How am I, a man, going to offer encouragement and support to a woman when I have no clue what it is like to be pregnant and in labor?” I thought my whole time there was going to be miserable and a waste of time.

Ironically, this turned out not to be the case at all; it turned out to be one of my most memorable rotations as a nursing student. It was during this rotation that I had an experience that would expand my perspective and outlook on life, for it was this experience that taught me what the Healer’s Art is all about.

On this particular day, I was assigned to work with a nurse who would be helping a mother and her family recover physically and spiritually after giving birth to a stillborn that morning. When we walked in the room to introduce ourselves, a Catholic priest was there giving the baby a blessing. The baby was in the arms of a young boy who was lying down asleep on a bed. I later learned that this young boy had cried himself to sleep with his baby brother in his arms. The room was dark and smelled of blood and body fluids. The father was in the bathroom.

We learned from the night shift nurse that the father had passed out when the baby was born. The mother was lying in bed with the underlying sheets covered in blood. She was sad, disappointed, and confused. This would have been her eighth child. She was diagnosed with chronic hypertension and had had poor prenatal care.  The baby had apparently been dead for a month because upon her admission to the hospital she reported no fetal movement for about this length of time.

Finally, the priest left the room and then the nurse also left to get a consent form to have an autopsy performed, so it was me alone with this family. I sat beside the father as he held his baby boy in his arms. I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything at all; I just put my hands on his shoulder. The nurse returned to the room with the consent form. The father then asked me if I could hold the baby while he signed the papers. It was a moment in time that I will never forget.  There was not the usual movement, crying, or opening of the mouth and eyes. There was blood around the baby’s mouth, eyes, and on his head. Vernix was still around his arms and legs. A million thoughts rushed in my mind. I thought about what this little boy’s spirit would have been like. I thought about all the fun things he would miss out on in life, like learning how to throw a baseball or ride a bike or his first kiss.

The nurse and I finished helping this family. We switched the mother to another bed. We took the baby to the morgue. I learned all about the process and the extended amount of paper work that must be done in these terrible situations.

Later that day as I was sitting at the nurses station watching the fetal monitor of a new patient, one of the nurses walked by with a newborn and asked me if I would hold the baby while she finished getting a few things together. As I held this live and active newborn in my arms, I thought about my earlier experience. I could feel the heartbeat of this new baby boy I was now holding. He opened his mouth wide and moved his arms and body. I couldn’t help but smile and feel love for this precious gift of life. My troubled heart was becoming mended.

The first time I held a baby in Labor and delivery was when I held the stillborn. The second time was later that day when I held the live newborn. In just one day I saw and felt the whole spectrum of the good and bad in Labor and delivery.

You see, most of the time we think of the nurse as the one who has The Healer’s Art, but on this day it was these two tiny little babies that opened my heart and touched it forever. Who knows, maybe it was part of this little stillborn’s mission to come to earth and touch my life. I will never forget him. He will always remain close to my heart. Wow, the children—no wonder Jesus loved them so much. Theirs is truly the kingdom of Heaven.

Nursing College Names New Associate Deans; Current Dean Reinstated



Pictured left to right: Jane Lassetter, Kathy Whitenight, Patricia Ravert, and Katreena Merrill.

Professor Dr. Jane H. Lassetter has been named as the new associate dean for graduate studies and scholarly works and contribution to the discipline. Also associate professor Dr. Katreena Merrill was named as the associate dean for undergraduate studies.


NewAssocDean1Lassetter (AS ’81, BS ’98, MS ’01) PhD, RN, is a college alumnus and received three BYU nursing degrees before obtaining a terminal degree in nursing from Oregon Health Sciences University in 2008. She recently completed a graduate certificate in Healthcare Ethics from Creighton University. Lassetter was honored with the BYU Muriel Thole Teaching and Learning Faculty Fellowship last August. She is the president of the International Family Nursing Association, and Governor-at-Large for the Western Institute of Nursing. She was also inducted in 2015 as a member of the Western Academy of Nursing. Her research focuses on childhood obesity and the roles of families and culture. She is replacing Dr. Mary Williams who served in this position for 27-years.

newassocdean2.jpgMerrill (AS ’83, BS ’85) PhD, RN, is also an alumna of the nursing college and received a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Utah in 2011. She was recently inducted into the National Academies of Practice, and was given the College of Nursing’s 2017 Dr. Elaine Dyer Research Endowment Award, as well as receive its Myrtie Fulton Nursing Award in 2011. Her research and faculty specialties deal with quality improvement, patient safety, and nursing leadership in acute-care settings. As such she was honored with the Marriner S. Eccles Foundation Scholarship Award in 2006 and a Nursing Excellence Award from Intermountain Healthcare Urban South Region in 2005. She is replacing Dr. Kent Blad who was in this role the past five years.

Associate professor Dr. Williams (BS ’71) PhD, RN, began in this job at the start of the 1990 academic year and worked under five college deans. While the exact wording of her title may have changed over the years, she was responsible for the graduate program and for the scholarly works efforts of the college (which included faculty research and contribution to the discipline). Her service was recognized in 2009 with the university’s Wesley P. Lloyd Award for Distinction in Graduate Education. Williams’ College knowledge and insight allowed her to chair the college’s 40th-, 50th– and 60th-anniversary celebrations.

Teaching professor Dr. Blad (MS ’99) DNP, FNP-c, ACNP-BC, FCCM, FAANP developed the veteran section of the clinical practicum for public and global health nursing course, in which nursing students are taught how to care for the veteran population and then during spring term spend a week in Washington, DC, learning firsthand from various veterans and veteran groups, historical sites and clinical settings. Students also serve as guardians to veterans on a yearly college-sponsored Utah Honor Flight experience (which takes veterans to Washington, DC to view war memorials and historic sites in their honor). Blad received a presidential citation for Contributions to the Society of Critical Care Medicine from the Society of Critical Care Medicine earlier this year.

Additionally, Dr. Patricia K. Ravert was asked by the University to continue as Nursing Dean for a second term, effective July 1. While this was shared with College faculty and staff in March, it was never publicly announced.


Dean and professor Ravert (AS ’74, BS ’75, MS ’94) PhD, RN, CNE, ANEF, FAAN is a pioneer in nursing simulation and is a national leader in the development of virtual learning scenarios. In March 2015, Mometrix Test Preparation released a listing of the 30 most influential nursing deans in the nation. Dr. Ravert was listed at the 19th position on this prestigious list.


She also received the 2009 Excellence in the Academic Setting Award from the International Association of Clinical Simulation and Learning, and a 2006 Excellence in Research Award from Sigma Theta Tau, Iota Iota Chapter at Large (the university’s nursing honor society chapter).

Assistant dean Kathy A. Whitenight MBA, remains in her current position and oversees resource management for the College.

An Arabic Major’s Humorous Experience Learning How to Administer an IV

Watch the video version of this at

“Be sure to inform the patient of the prick…”

I vaguely registered these words as I stared at the computer monitor. The presentation seemed to be dragging itself out a little, and my concentration was slipping.

“Be sure to properly dispose any blood-splattered material…”

My eyes shot open. Run that by me again? Blood-splattered material? Was I practicing to be a nurse or a butcher?

The flurry of medical terms that began erupting from the headphones about cannulation and catheters confirmed that indeed, this was IV placement training, and augmented how out of place I felt in the Mary Jane Rawlins Geertsen Nursing Learning Center.

My name is Steven Tibbitts, and I am a public relations assistant in the BYU College of Nursing. I am also a Middle East Studies/Arabic major. This means that when nursing faculty and students start talking about dyspnea and dilation, I’m usually grabbing a dictionary.

Given my non-medical background, it was decided that I would go through some of the same computer/machine training for IV placement that nursing students complete in order to write a story on the difficulty level.

Summary to the non-initiated—it’s hard. Lazy readers can stop here.

NLC Assistant Supervisor Kristen Whipple guided me through the process, giving me the same instructions she gives to normal students. The whole system is composed of a computer program and a small machine to which you administer the IV. For a nursing student to pass, they have to earn a 73% on the procedure.

I first had to watch several training videos. They made me feel good by reminding me how much easier Arabic is to understand than medical terminology.

IV 2

“What does this all mean?”

Following that, an image flashed on the screen about a patient to whom I would administer an IV, complete with a backstory about the accident that put her in the hospital. I could not help but think that the accident might not wind up being the worst part of her day by the time we were done.

It was time to get down to business. I selected the mid-arm as the injection point, and then scrambled to figure out what supplies I would require, my lack of understanding evident in the questions I asked myself aloud. How many needles? Which kind? Wait, IV needles come in gauges? (Nursing students, try not to mock me too much here.)

The program then had me prepare to administer the IV, first by informing the patient of the impending procedure, and then putting on rubber gloves with a satisfying snap. It then instructed me to test the viability of my selected injection site. This was accomplished by touching the part of the machine that mimicked human skin and feeling the pulse that it generated.

Easy, I thought, just like surgery class in first grade when Miss Conn taught us how to identify strong blood flow by palpating the patient’s veins…wait…

IV 3.png

“Here goes nothing…oh wait, there’s blood!”

With a site selected, I washed it on the computer and then realized that it was actually time to use the pointy thing. I apologized profusely to the imaginary patient, picked up the needle, and gingerly began to maneuver it into the hole on the machine that represented the insertion point. I watched my progress on the screen, realizing that most likely a real patient would be filling out lawsuit papers by now with the arm that I had not maimed.  However, after some fiddling, I did manage to place the catheter.

About that point, I remembered that I needed to warn the patient that I was going to place the IV, so they received a heads up a solid two minutes after the fact.

As you might guess, my initial score was not superb.  The report had many tips that Whipple helped me understand, like not moving the needle back and forth in the vein (be grateful that I will never be a nurse) and warning the patient before I poke them.

I practiced several times, achieved a 92 on the third, and then called it quits when my scores began precipitously plummeting to the 60s. In fact, I never managed to completely the procedure successfully by the program’s standards. One of the times even resulted in the patient bleeding profusely (this attempt is highlighted in the above video).

IV 4.png

“I need to flee the country before they sue!”

While I was contemplating my failure, Whipple explained to me the same thing that she does to Type A nursing students who get only a 73.

Obviously, the computer program is not a real patient. It is like a nursing video game whose purpose is to initiate students into IV training. This training is coupled with practicing on manikin arms and other materials, so the skill is finely honed during first semester, despite what people’s initial results may be with the machine. It is all about practice.

The experience showed me that a) I’m happy to stick with العربي and b) nursing students are very well trained and capable. Their program is rigorous and ensures that students are able to provide care in an effective way, all with the Spirit. The BYU College of Nursing holds its students to a high standard, which translates into better patient care and safer medical practices.

In summary, if you’re in a hospital and you find a BYU College of Nursing graduate administering your IV, rest easy, you’re in good hands.

If it’s me, run for the hills.