Monthly Archives: September 2018

Student Spotlight: Emily Wilkins

By Quincey Taylor

Emily Wilkins

Everyone has a story to tell, even if they do not know it. This was the case for Emily Wilkins, sixth semester nursing student.

When she first came to BYU from Colorado Springs, Emily was convinced that she was meant to apply to the music program playing the flute. All of this changed, however, when she was involved in a car accident during her first semester at BYU on the way to the airport. Emily broke her collarbone, had abrasions, and sprained both her ankles. She was taken to the University of Utah Hospital to be observed overnight. The whole experience was terrifying, but the kind nurses at the hospital really helped her feel at ease. Emily comments, “The nurses were just awesome. I was a little 18 year old, my parents weren’t there, and it was kind of scary. They were good at calming me down and letting me know everything was going to be okay.” This was her first experience seeing the Healer’s art in action.

Because of this accident, Emily was not able to audition for the music program and determined that she needed to pick a new major. During this semester, Emily received her mission call to serve in Lithuania in the Baltic Mission. She left still not knowing what to study.

One day during her mission studies, Emily was reading an Ensign article that was talking about how the Savior was the Master Teacher. Emily felt that this was the answer to her prayers. However, in that moment, her first thought was, “but He was a Healer, too.” She decided to go forward with nursing and absolutely loved the prerequisites once she came back to BYU.

Emily is currently doing her capstone in trauma care in the emergency room at Utah Valley Hospital. Initially, Emily thought she would go into labor and delivery, but during her first day in the hospital there was an emergency with a patient. She was walking down the hall and heard the patient call for help. When she came rushing in, Emily saw blood was spurting everywhere, called for a doctor, and immediately tried to stop the bleeding. In that moment, she was able to remain calm and keep a cool head. This was her sign that she was meant to go into trauma care.

Since then, Emily had her first CPR experience in the ER. While these scary situations are by no means fun, Emily is drawn to them because she feels she has a unique ability to stay composed and follow the Spirit in emergency situations. She comments, “Those were the experiences that I really felt God calming me and saying ‘You can do this,’ so I really felt this was my fit.”

Emily is the first of her family to go into healthcare. For her, some of the biggest inspirations are her professors, in not only their professional careers but also who they are as people. When asked how her experience in the program has been, she comments, “The nursing program is really good at preparing us for anything. It seems like our nursing program tends to go deeper than other nursing programs. For example, at clinical you might mention something that you noticed and the preceptor will be like ‘Oh, you guys already learned that? I didn’t learn that until I started working.’”

It is important to Emily to always remember that her patients are children of God in the first place. She had an experience at the hospital with a patient who was not able to talk. The nurse there did not seem too concerned about his feelings and assumed he did not understand what they were saying. Emily related, “We went in to give him an IV, and I noticed he was grimacing. I grabbed his hand and told him it was all going to be okay. In that moment he opened his eyes.” She knew that he had felt her love and that it really made a difference to him in that moment. She hopes to have this attitude throughout her career and adds, “For me, I try to make it a point that every morning when I go to a shift to pray about my patients. I feel like not only does the Spirit help me in giving them care but it also gives me a reminder that these are God’s children and not just a job.”

Introducing New BYU College of Nursing Program Directors

By Quincey Taylor


Changes to the staff of the BYU College of Nursing were made this fall semester, bringing new insights to the established positions. Associate teaching professor Dr. Peggy Anderson has replaced associate teaching professor Debra Mills as the undergraduate program director, and associate professor Dr. Beth Luthy has replaced associate professor Dr. Donna Freeborn as the graduate program director. We want to introduce Anderson and Luthy as well as thank Mills and Freeborn for their years of devoted service in these positions.

Peggy Anderson

In an office adorned with photos of the Savior and family members, Dr. Peggy Anderson keeps her priorities in mind every day. Anderson is one of the tenured members of the faculty, having worked in the College of Nursing for a total of 14 years. She loves working with the students, and when she was invited to take the position as the new undergraduate program director, she happily accepted. Although it sometimes seems overwhelming, Anderson is ready and willing to bring new insights into the important position.

When asked about her 35-year career in the healthcare industry, Anderson laughs, “I’ve been around the block a few times.” She did not originally consider going into nursing when she was a student at BYU; her dream was to work with special ed children. However, she was influenced by her father, with whom she had a close relationship, to consider nursing. Anderson’s mother, sister and grandmother had all been nurses and her father saw the work ethic required for the field. He knew that Anderson had that same work ethic and that she could excel as a nurse if she wanted to. She ended up following his advice and graduated from BYU with a nursing degree. She fulfilled her dream of working with children and went into pediatrics. Anderson’s true passion for nursing lies with patient care. She loves to serve those that are suffering as well as their families.

This love for serving others has translated perfectly into her educational career. In many ways, teaching is a form of service to the younger generations. Recently, Anderson ran into one of her past students with whom she did clinicals. It was fun for them to reconnect because of the personal relationship sparked in their time working together. While Anderson strives to have a professional attitude during clinicals, she comments, “You can’t help but get to know each other really well.” Anderson expresses excitement to continue working with the bright students in the program and mentions, “they are always in my prayers.”

Debra Mills

Debra Mills is stepping down as the undergraduate program director, but that does not mean that you won’t be seeing her around. She is reassuming her full-time faculty position and will be solely teaching once more. When asked how she feels about handing the position over to Anderson, she says, “I know I am leaving it in capable hands.”

Mills first considered going into nursing when she was talking with a neighbor who was a nurse in the Navy. This neighbor liked her and thought she had the characteristics needed for the medical field. Mills applied to the nursing program at Rick’s, got in, and came to work in Salt Lake City after graduation. After three years working, she achieved her goal of getting a job at Primary Children’s Hospital in 1978.

Her first experience teaching was at the Salt Lake Community College, where she was the program coordinator. She helped to write the associate degree RN program for accreditation there. After all that experience, Mills had a lot to offer once she was hired at BYU. She has been teaching and working here for 17 years. Her favorite part has been being so closely involved with the curriculum used in every course. She truly knows all the ins and outs of every nursing class. She also has loved working with students and putting them at ease if they were ever worried about something.

When asked about how it has been working with such a fantastic team of faculty, she says, “I appreciate them. I appreciate their support, when they let me know if they need something or if I can be of help. I just appreciate them.” There is no doubt that faculty feel the same way for her, and want to thank her for all her years of dedicated service.


Beth Luthy

Barefoot and cozy in her office, Dr. Beth Luthy helps master’s students feel at ease as the newly appointed graduate coordinator. Although she is heartbroken that Donna is retiring, Luthy is excited to get to work with the students and feels that she has something unique to offer in this position.

Luthy did not plan to become a nurse at first; however, she was inspired to start learning the Healer’s art when her first son was born with a liver abnormality. He ended up getting a liver transplant early on and was very sick for the first five years of his life. Luthy sometimes felt frustrated because she would listen to the medical staff discuss her son’s condition, and she did not understand what they were saying. “It was like another language,” she says. It was then that she decided to go to nursing school to become a better advocate for her suffering child. She wanted to give a voice to the voiceless and be her son’s informed supporter.

This pattern of advocating for the weak has continued throughout her career. Luthy became a school nurse for a number of years. She fell in love with the job and enjoyed interacting with the children. However, she became a little exasperated when she realized that for many she was the only line of defense in their healthcare. They did not have insurance and therefore did not receive the care they needed. This inspired her to go back to school in order to treat these kids herself. She decided to go to Nurse Practitioner School at BYU in 2005. There she got a Bachelor’s in Community Health Education.

Her heart always remained in the education system, and she applied for a position teaching in the undergraduate program at BYU. Before applying, Luthy was uncertain if this job was the path she should follow. However, one day while she was taking her kids to soccer practice, she received an undeniable prompting that she was meant to teach at BYU. “It was so strong,” she says, “I just kind of sat there dumbfounded, taking in that moment. It was a revelatory moment.” Luthy got the job and began teaching.

Luthy learned about the position opening as the graduate coordinator from Dr. Donna Freeborn, who in many ways was her mentor. When asked about how she feels as the new graduate coordinator, Luthy replied, “If I could look 13 years into the future, I never would have thought that I would be here.” She knows the students are capable of amazing things and looks forward to holding them to that standard.

Donna Freeborn

Dr. Donna Freeborn is retiring after a full 20 years working in the College of Nursing. Freeborn has even taught multiple current faculty members when they were students, therefore influencing the future of the nursing program. We will miss her and are grateful for the legacy of service she has left. She truly has left a mark on the nursing program and the students who have passed through it.

Freeborn started her nursing career in Med/Surge, eventually going on a service mission to Hong Kong. Her passion was with labor and delivery, inspiring her to get a master’s degree and become a midwife. After a few years of experience, Freeborn saw an ad in the church news for someone to come to BYU and teach labor and delivery. She applied on a whim, uncertain if they would be interested in having her. She was hired, however, and began teaching in the undergraduate program for the following three years. After that, she taught in the nurse practitioner program for 17 years. When asked about how she felt leaving the field to come teach at BYU, she says, “I really liked the patients, that was my biggest thing, and I thought I would miss that when I came to teach. But the students filled that gap.”

Freeborn has absolutely loved teaching and focusing on the Savior, commenting, “Teaching and nursing are very similar in a lot of ways. In nursing, we talk about learning the Healer’s art and in education, we focus on becoming like the Master Teacher. Well, we’re talking about the same person.” She has learned to see people how the Savior would. She says, “You have to look at people like human beings. They have all aspects of their lives intertwined and we need to be understanding.”

Freeborn expresses her gratitude to all her coworkers and students, but at the same time she is excited for a relaxing retirement. When asked about her future plans, she says, “I’m building a cabin in Mount Pleasant.” The faculty wants to wish her luck in retirement and hopes she visits often.


Alumna Receives the President’s Volunteer Service Award

By Mindy Longhurst

pence and swensenImage of Melissa Swensen with Second Lady, Karen Pence. Image courtesy of Pence’s Twitter.

BYU College of Nursing alumna, Melissa Swensen (BS’99) received the President’s Volunteer Service Award in April! She received the award from Second Lady, Karen Pence, from Pence’s office on the White House grounds.

The President’s Volunteer Service Award is given to members of the community who exemplify a remarkable amount of service hours for a cause or organization. There are different requirements for the different levels of awards (children, teens, adults). Swensen received the bronze President’s Volunteer Service Award for her 100+ hours of service she has done in a 12 month time period.

Swensen volunteers as a nurse with the American Red Cross to help those at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence in Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Swensen works with those who have served our country who are currently suffering from PTSD or TBI.

awardThe President’s Volunteer Service Award. Image courtesy of Pence’s Twitter.

The President’s Volunteer Service Award comes with a certificate, an award pin, medallion or coin. The award also comes with a letter from the President of the United States.

Pence even mentioned Swensen on her Twitter page saying, “As part of National Volunteer Week, had the privilege of presenting the President’s Volunteer Service Award to military spouse, Melissa Swensen. She volunteers as a nurse w/the @RedCross at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence @Fort_Belvoir. Congrats! You are amazing!”

guestsSwensen with guests. Image courtesy of Pence’s Twitter.

The volunteer work she does for those who need it really is amazing. But, what is even more amazing is that during her time she has volunteered, Swensen is also getting her psychiatric DNP at George Mason University. In addition, she is a mother of five children and her husband serves in the military! Melissa Swensen really is an amazing lady. Congratulations!

Learning the Healer’s art as a Mission Nurse

By Mindy Longhurst

flu shotImage of Natalie Schroeder preparing a syringe for the flu shot vaccine. Image courtesy of Schroeder.

First semester nursing student, Natalie Schroeder, had the amazing opportunity of serving as a mission nurse while in the Ciudad Juarez Mexico mission. The experiences that she had as a mission nurse led her to pursue a nursing education from BYU.

Schroeder became interested in the medical field after taking a career aptitude test in her first semester at BYU. While preparing for her LDS mission, she worked as a medical assistant at a cardiologist office.

About halfway through her mission, she was asked to be the mission nurse. This experience changed the trajectory of her life. Her responsibilities included the setup of medical protocol for her mission, answering medical questions, giving health presentations at Zone Conferences, attending specialist appointments with missionaries, making sure all missionaries received their needed prescriptions and updating the medical reports.

presentation at MP homeImage of Schroeder giving a health presentation at the Mission President’s home. Image courtesy of Schroeder.

When Schroeder first received this assignment, she was hesitant that she would be able to do everything that would be required of her. Schroeder was concerned because she had no formal nursing certification or training. Schroeder says, “This was a very humbling opportunity for me. I had been called to do this and I really felt like I was not qualified to do it. But, the Lord really qualified me once I was called. In spite of being so challenging, I found by the end of my mission I just didn’t want to go because it was one of the most beautiful things I had ever experienced.”

Being a mission nurse came with the joy of being able to help others. Schroeder says, “I was filled with so much joy as I was able to see missionaries overcome their sickness and to see them be in good health. It was rewarding to be able to help others.”

missionariesMissionaries from the Ciudad Juarez Mission. Image courtesy of Schroeder.

Ultimately, Schroeder believes that she was divinely inspired to help her fellow missionaries. She says, “There was a lot of medical vocabulary that I had never heard before. Medical Spanish is different from normal Spanish. They don’t teach you medical Spanish in classes or at the MTC! But, when I went to doctor’s appointments with missionaries, I felt very inspired and guided as to what to do and say. There were times where I didn’t know the word but God helped me to be able to understand what the word meant. I was able to use words that I had never used before.”

Her heart was filled with love and compassion for the missionaries she was able to serve. Of this time, she says “It was such a blessing for me to serve in that capacity because I came to really love and see my fellow missionaries how God saw them. I never felt a love for somebody as much as I did while being a mission nurse. You really get to see people through the eyes of the Savior. It was a blessing for me to be able to serve and help others that way, there is no other feeling like it. It is hard for me to even describe.”

Bringing it back to God, Schroeder knows who helped her throughout her journey. She now turns to God in helping her learn the Healer’s art at BYU. She looks forward to working in clinical and learning more about nursing.

100% of BYU Nursing Students Pass NCLEX for the Second Quarter in a Row

By Quincey Taylor

Michael Scott ATIStudent Michael Scott studies ATI to prepare for the NCLEX.

NCLEX-RN. Even mentioning the name of the National Council Licensure Examination makes most aspiring nurses nervous. That is not true, however, for the students at the College of Nursing at BYU. For the past two quarters of 2018, BYU students have passed the NCLEX and received their nursing licenses at an astounding 100% first-time passing rate. This is an amazing accomplishment considering the average passing rate for U.S.-educated registered nurses in those same quarters was only 89.5% (Utah average was 88.32%). College officials explain how the members of the program have achieved this above-average rate and why students should see the value in the (sometimes arduous) ATI testing.

Students in the College of Nursing take multiple Assessment Technologies Institute exams during their stay in the program. Most undergraduate BYU faculty use ATI material as an integral part of their curriculum starting with the second semester students. They are provided with a textbook, online study guides, flashcards, and other useful aids. This is great practice because in many ways ATI mirrors the style of the NCLEX, which is nothing like usual school exams that test mostly for technical knowledge. The NCLEX, on the other hand, tests students’ ability to analyze situations and apply this same knowledge. Critical thinking skills are needed, and the questions require test-takers to make the kind of judgments they would face in the real world.

ATI-100All Utah nursing programs NCLEX passing rates. See the link for more information

When asked why the ATI exams are important for student preparation, associate teaching professor and undergraduate program coordinator Dr. Peggy Anderson says, “It’s a good predictor, and that’s why we keep it. We can kind of tell where your knowledge base is and where it’s lacking.” She also added that it is a great tool professors can use to know what information they need to go back and readdress to help their students.

Additionally, professor Dr. Renea Beckstand offers an NCLEX prep course for students to take during their capstone. Her class simulates what taking the test really will be like. Even if students do poorly on the practice exam, in many cases that is the added motivation they needed to take an extra study class or to dedicate more time on their preparation, helping them pass in the end. For those students who might be struggling a bit, associate teaching professor Karen de la Cruz teaches a study skills course to add to their tool belt. It focuses on the fundamentals of studying, like how to interpret questions and have a good test-taking strategy.

While low ATI scores by no means guarantee a low score on the NCLEX, in almost all cases the nurses that did not pass the NCLEX the first time around had poor ATI marks. Associate Dean and associate professor Dr. Katreena Merrill comments, “I looked at it across several semesters, and the people that did not pass the NCLEX had lower scores on their ATI’s all the way across the board.”

For the graduating classes of December 2017 and April 2018 who passed the NCLEX the first time around, faculty want to say congratulations on such a remarkable achievement. Merrill adds, “I am so proud of them and it shows the kind of quality we are producing. Being a brand new nurse is hard, so they should be proud of passing the NCLEX the first time around.” She also urges those alumni to pay it forward and find ways to help the younger generation of students along the same journey.

Updated College Mission, Values and Vision

By Quincey Taylor

Peterson with ValuesAssistant Professor, Dr. Neil Peterson with the new college mission, values and vision statements.

Recently, the College of Nursing at BYU has updated its mission, values and vision. As a direct reflection of the college beliefs, these statements were revised by a core group of faculty in order to better portray BYU Nursing as a whole.

Assistant professor, Dr. Neil Peterson, chair of the Future’s Task Force of the College of Nursing, explained that he and a group of four other faculty members got together to discuss the college mission, values, and vision. They wanted to know how they could be updated to better reflect the goals of the college. It had been years since their original creation, and none of the current faculty had helped in their formation.

A project a year in the making, Peterson expressed elation at the change and says, “Revisiting and refreshing are good and will bring more awareness about this important issue.” He also clarified, “We wanted it to be more applicable to anyone within the College of Nursing, students and faculty alike.” It is the hope of college administrators that these changes unite all participants within the College of Nursing in striving to become like the Savior. Dean and Professor Dr. Patricia Ravert explained that the mission, values, and vision “now reflect principles that nursing faculty, staff, students, and alumni can understand, support, and emulate in their careers.”

College Mission Statement

“The mission of the College of Nursing at Brigham Young University is to learn the Healer’s art and go forth to serve.” With an emphasis on learning the Healer’s art as well as the BYU motto “Go Forth to Serve,” the new mission statement brings to light the need for students to not only learn as much as they can, but to also apply their knowledge throughout their lives. It is not good enough for a student to focus solely on his or her academic success; he or she must also strive to let that knowledge change who they are as a person. The mission statement highlights the administrative desire of the College of Nursing to not only prepare high quality nurses for the field, but also high quality, well-rounded members of society.

College Values

Accountability, Collaboration, Compassion, Innovation, Inspiration, Integrity, Learning, and Service. To introduce these new values, eight short video segments narrated by Dean Ravert are being released in the following weeks. Each video highlights one value, as well as an individual within nursing history that emanated this value exceptionally well. For example, Clara Barton is featured as a glowing model of a nurse with compassion. Her nursing career during the Civil War eventually led her to implementing The Red Cross organization for the first time in the United States. These eight videos will be released each Monday starting September 17.

College Vision

“Guided by the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we exemplify the Healer’s art by: leading with faith and integrity; advancing the science of nursing and healthcare; promoting health and wellness; alleviating suffering; and serving individuals, families, and communities.” One significant change to the college vision was bringing the Savior in as the ultimate example as the Healer. Neil Peterson and his team felt strongly to include the gospel in the vision statement because this is something that sets this university apart from any other. As summarized by Dean Ravert, “The Savior taught the gospel, and our efforts must focus on His instructions, love, and example.” The college hopes to remind consistently the students and faculty of their ultimate goal of becoming like Jesus Christ.

Following these changes, Peterson mentioned that he has noticed an increased awareness among faculty and students of what the mission, values, and vision are. College officials trust that this increased awareness will ultimately lead to an amplified application of these core beliefs, bringing all students and faculty a step closer to learning the Healer’s art.


Nursing Faculty Honored for their Work

By Mindy Longhurst

Recently, two faculty members of the College of Nursing won awards for their excellence in nursing and teaching.

rod newmanAssistant teaching professor, Rod Newman, receiving the NP State Award for Excellence. Photo by AANP News.

Rod Newman

Assistant teaching professor, Rod Newman earned the American Association for Nurse Practitioners State Award for Excellence. He received this award in Austin, Texas. This award recognizes one NP from each state who shows exemplary nursing care.

Newman obtained this award for his expertise and experience as a cardiology NP, his dedication for developing and running the critical care unit for Mountain View Hospital in Payson, his work as the CCU Nursing Director, his role at establishing and piloting the NP role at Utah Valley hospital and for the dedication to mentoring and helping students throughout Utah County.

Gaye Ray FWA Excellence in Teaching 2018 (2)Associate teaching professor, Gaye Ray, with Patti Freeman receiving the Excellence in Teaching Award.

Gaye Ray

Associate teaching professor, Gaye Ray recently attained the Excellence in Teaching Award from the BYU Faculty Women’s Association. This award is given to those who have expert skills and knowledge in their designated field and teach with excellence with the need of the student always in mind.

Ray was awarded the Excellence in Teaching award at the FWA Spring Retreat.

Congratulations to both Rod Newman and Gaye Ray for their excellence in nursing and the awards they have received!