Monthly Archives: May 2019

Stroke Awareness Month: An Unlikely Hero

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Zak Gowans is happy that his dad, Ben, successfully survived a stroke. 

By Corbin Smith

There are very few things that can happen in a person’s life that can flip it completely upside down. Receiving a cancer diagnosis or the death of a loved one are just two examples. There is one, though, that many do not realize affects so many people each day.

Due to this fact, each May the world celebrates Stroke Awareness Month, reminding us the importance of being able to recognize and react to a stroke.

In 2016, strokes were the second leading cause of death in the world, amounting to almost 6 million deaths worldwide. Next month, some 65,000 Americans will experience a stroke; most unaware they are even at risk!

Since it is close to impossible to know when a stroke will strike, the National Stroke Association has created an easy-to-remember acronym called F.A.S.T to help identify the symptoms of a stroke. By knowing and quickly following F.A.S.T when you suspect someone is having a stroke, you could literally save someone’s life.

An Unlikely Hero

March 23, 2019 started as a normal day for Ben and Zak Gowans. Zak, the videographer for the College of Nursing’s media team, was spending some time doing homework in his room. His dad, Ben, having spent the day at his parents’ home, had just sat down on his bed to watch Avengers: Infinity War.

After a few minutes, wanting a break from homework, Zak came into the room and sat down on the bed to watch the movie with his dad. “The way we were laying, we couldn’t see each other. Then he sat up and looked at me. I saw his pupils were huge and he looked really confused. All I could ask was, ‘Are you okay?’” says Zak.

From Ben’s perspective he says, “I remember sitting there and thinking ‘I’ve seen this movie before but it doesn’t make sense what’s happening.’ I looked at my hands, and they were like someone else’s hands. They were moving oddly, not responding quite right, so I sat up a little and looked over at Zak.”

Zak jumped up, turned the movie off and ran over to the other side of the bed. “He couldn’t speak. I knew it was something with his brain, because he was acting very strange,” says Zak. “As I called 911,” Zak laughs, “My dad even started shaking his head no.” “It was because it was going to be expensive,” jokes Ben.

Within the next ten minutes, the paramedics arrived and Ben’s wife got back home from the grocery store to a great surprise. From the moment they arrived to when he made it to the hospital, he was bombarded with questions. “Every question they asked I knew the answer too, but the words wouldn’t come out of my mouth. I knew what to say but I couldn’t communicate it,” says Ben.

Stroke of Luck

The next few hours were filled with uncertainty and medical tests. He was given a CT scan to see what type of stroke he was having and where the blood clot was in his brain. He was offered a potentially dangerous clot-busting medicine to begin dissolving the clots.

After that, the emotional trial began. “I remember the first night. I was in a dark room and I couldn’t fall asleep. I remember laying there thinking that I wish I had just died. This was going to be a terrible life, and I didn’t want to do that. I just wished I had bled out,” says Ben.

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Ben was comforted by his family on his way to recovery.

He had a long line of people rooting for him, though, not letting him give up. His wife, Julie, stayed with him all night in the ICU and told him, “I’m not done with you, you can’t leave yet.” The next morning a steady stream of family members and neighbors from the community came in and helped strengthen him.

Ben amazed doctors and physical therapists by how quickly he regained his movement. On the other hand, they were puzzled with how a healthy 45-year-old man had suffered a stroke. Through some tests, they found an 8-millimeter hole in his heart, where a tiny clot had gotten through and shot straight up to his brain, causing the stroke.

After an operation to close the small hole, Ben is living a fairly normal and healthy life. He now laughs about the experience saying, “We joke about it all the time, it’s just good times. I don’t want to be sensitive about it, that’s just my personality.” Even in the face of hardship, Ben lives his life with a smile on his face.

Ben is very thankful to the nurses he had at Mountain View Hospital in Payson, Utah. “They lifted my spirits quite a bit and they were also very attentive,” he says. He is especially thankful, though, for the swift reaction of Zak. “I’m very fortunate that Zak was able to recognize the symptoms,” he says. Who knows if he would be here today without Zak’s actions?

Although Zak is not a nursing or medical student, he was able to save a life by simply knowing stroke symptoms and how to react. A stroke can hit in any moment, and it is important that we also know what to do, in case we need to become a hero in an instant.

 

Follow the link below to learn more about the risks as well as how to recognize and react to a stroke.

https://www.stroke.org/

Dr. Katreena Merrill: Using Edmunds Fellowship to Combat Superbugs

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Untreatable bacteria are on the rise and the cause? Overusing antibiotics. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

By Quincey Taylor

Every year, a member of the BYU College of Nursing faculty is awarded the Mary Ellen Edmunds “Learning the Healer’s art” Fellowship. The awardee receives funding for three years to put towards their research in progressing the Healer’s art. Receiving this fellowship is a great honor, and this year’s honoree is associate dean and associate professor Dr. Katreena Merrill.

Merrill’s current research, which emphasizes quality and improvement in patient safety, revolves around the education of nurses about the appropriate use of antibiotics. In America’s current healthcare system, antibiotics are extremely overused. Everything from a cold, a sore throat, or a virus is usually treated with a dosage of antibiotics.

However, overprescribing this useful tool in treating sickness has resulted in the development of resistant bacteria. These “superbugs” do not respond to the antibiotics that were successfully used in the past. Essentially, there is no treatment strong enough to be effective against them. In fact, reducing superbugs’ resistance to antibiotics is one of the primary focuses of the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the CDC, each year in the U.S. at least 2 million people get an antibiotic-resistant infection, and at least 23,000 people die.

The ultimate goal of Merrill’s research is to improve the knowledge and attitude of student nurses towards “antibiotic stewardship.” This term implies that nurses have a responsibility to control the usage of antibiotics and even withhold them when necessary. This way, nurses can be the first line of defense against superbugs.

Merrill has worked with Intermountain Medical Center to research what nurses know about antibiotics and their role in healthcare. In their research, they identified some gaps in nurses’ knowledge, including students’ knowledge as they prepare to go into a workplace where antibiotic resistance is an issue.

To curb this lack of knowledge, Merrill is using her Edmunds fund to collaborate with students and develop education modules for nursing students. Preparing these nurses for the hospital or clinic setting will assure them how to proceed in certain situations and combat superbugs.

For example, Merrill hopes to implement training to help nurses dig deeper and not rule out less extreme drugs like penicillin when a patient says they are allergic to it. By asking questions like ‘When did you last have penicillin?’ or ‘What happened to you when you took it?’ or ‘Have you tried penicillin since then?,’ nurses can avoid using harsher antibiotics more often.

Merrill has really enjoyed using implementation science to truly see if nurses’ knowledge has been improved in this area and progressing the Healer’s art.

She comments, “For me, quality improvement and patient safety really align itself to the Healer’s art, because the Savior was an exemplar of how you could always be better or do better. When he talked about the widow’s mite, he said that she was doing a great job giving her one little portion. He’s not saying that the other people giving more money were doing bad, but rather it is one example saying that we can do better. Even though I’ve been a nurse for a very long time, I can always do better, right? To me, that’s what the Healer’s art is about in nursing, not only being compassionate but doing the best we can with the evidence that we have and continuing to grow and learn and become.”

 

Intermountain Medical Center Hires Three Fresh BYU Graduates

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IMC’s newest hired ER nurses Mikaela Jones (third from the right) and Daniel Smith (far right) with fellow students during a clinical outside ER ambulance entrance. Photo courtesy of Jones.

By Quincey Taylor

For nursing students at BYU, it might be hard to imagine what it would be like to attend another college of nursing. How would it compare to BYU? Would students receive as many chances to gain clinical experience? Would opportunities post-graduation be different?

Recently, a conversation had by teaching professor Dr. Kent Blad truly illustrates how our college compares to other educational institutions in the eyes of employers.

Our Students are Impressive

During the winter semester 2019, Blad was at Intermountain Medical Center with his students to do their Emergency Department clinical. He needed to speak with the nurse manager there, and she had something she wanted to say to him.

The nurse manager and the assistant nurse manager had just barely finished interviewing applicants for three open nursing positions in the hospital. They had 125 applicants and interviewed only a select few. Out of all the applicants, four freshly graduated BYU students applied.

The nurse manager said, “We don’t normally hire new graduates, but your students were so amazing in how they presented themselves, their resumes, and their letters that they wrote for the application. We were so impressed by what they had done already in the program. We just couldn’t believe what we were seeing with these new graduates.”

She even went on to say that one of the applicants received a perfect score on their application, a score the hiring staff rarely, if ever, gave. She remarked, “We don’t know what you’re doing there, but whatever it is, please don’t stop.”

Our Students are In Demand

Even though they were originally only looking for three new hires, they ended up asking for special permission from administration to open more spots in order to offer jobs to all of the BYU applicants. Being the biggest Level One trauma center in Utah, it is rare for IMC to hire recent graduates. However, the hiring staff could not pass up such stellar applicants.

Only three BYU students accepted the offered positions, including BYU alumni Mikaela Jones and Daniel Smith, along with another student from BYU-Idaho. The staff at IMC was eager and excited to add these stellar nurses to their team.

Blad was so moved by their opinion of the college, and says, “They really did appreciate our program and the way that we prepare our students for real life. When I walked out of there I felt so proud to be associated with our program that has such a good reputation.”

Our Students are Prepared

This praise of the program motivated Blad to be the best professor he can be, and he said, “To think that we, as faculty, have even a little part in students’ preparation, it just made me feel so good. We are preparing them not only adequately, but above and beyond what is expected. It was just a proud moment.”

Blad would also like to attribute the college’s success to the wonderful students who are so ready and eager to learn. With the high-quality training given by the college and the efforts of amazing students, the resulting success is definitely a team effort.

Jones is so grateful for the opportunity to work in the ER at IMC since January and says, “My education from BYU gave me the confidence to chase a job that scared me. I didn’t even capstone in the ER, but I had confidence that I had the knowledge I needed to get me started. The IMC ER actually said no to my online application because of lack of experience. I was determined and just showed up at the ER with my resume and a letter of 3 reasons they should hire me for the job.” It was because of her confidence that Jones was hired.

She goes on to say, “The reason I tell this story is because I really do believe BYU instilled in me a sense of confidence that I could be a great nurse if I really worked at it.”

Smith is also grateful for how the college helped him prepare and says, “The College of Nursing taught me to push myself, be a dependable team player, and prepare myself for a lifetime of learning.” He loves his new job and says, “Being a new grad here is like drinking from a firehose… I never thought I would be a psych nurse, a pediatric nurse, a women’s health nurse, or work with law enforcement so much on top of working with critical patients.”

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Smith and fellow nurses in HAZMAT suites, one of the many skills he has learned on the job. Photo courtesy of Smith.

For his Global Health trip when he was in school, he served among the At Risk population in the prison. This was a helpful experience to prepare him for his current job. He says, “I love being able to say I work with some of the sickest and most injured patients in Utah and that I’m making some of their worst days a little better.”

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Smith really loves his new job! Photo courtesy of Smith. 

Blad reassures students in the program that the BYU College of Nursing amply prepares its students and says, “We just want our students to know if they will stick with the program and do the things that they’re supposed to, that they can have confidence that they will come out and be well prepared for whatever opportunities are out there.”

 

Pageants, Prison and Pediatrics; A Spotlight on Nursing Alumna Catherine Whittaker

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Whittaker serving in a retirement home after winning Ms. Utah Senior. Photos courtesy of Whittaker.

By Corbin Smith

Jesus Christ once taught, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.” Christ went on to illustrate this concept by sharing a story we all know and love: The Good Samaritan. While on a trip to Jerico, a Jewish man was robbed, beaten and abandoned by a group of thieves. While a priest and a Levite passed by this dying man without offering any help, a Samaritan, someone who had likely struggled due to social discriminations, stopped and helped nurse the injured man back to help. That example of service and compassion is exactly how BYU nursing alumna Catherine Whittaker (AS ’74) has lived her life since she was a young woman.

Catherine Whittaker was born and raised in Provo, Utah. Ever since her first breath, Whittaker has recognized the positive impact nurses have had on her life. When Whittaker was born sick and pre-mature, it was her mother, who was a professionally trained nurse, along with many other nurses that saved her when the doctors said it was unlikely she would survive. Later on in life, when her father left when she was 17 years old, she was charged with caring for her six younger siblings alongside her mother. These experiences as a teenager inspired Whittaker to come to BYU and study to be a nurse in 1972.

Since her days at the Y, she has been a registered nurse for 45 years in various medical specialties and settings, from labor and delivery to maternal fetal medicine. Incredibly, she has personally helped bring over 3,000 babies into the world. With all of her experience in the field of nursing, she says that she has learned two major lessons that have guided her life.

First, that service is based off of love. While working in labor and delivery, Whittaker had a personal experience with a close friend. As her friend got closer to the due date of her third child, various complications arose due to the Rh factor in her blood. Hours later, a beautiful 8 ½ pound stillborn baby was born. Whittaker was able to be with her friend in those heart-wrenching moments to comfort and lift her dear friend. Even though it is hard, Whittaker recognizes the impact of a caring nurse in the face of tragedy. “I love being able to have intimate experiences with each patient and their families, it really helps you love each person you serve” says Whittaker.

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Whittaker (far right), along with three fellow Ms. Senior America contestants. 

Second, when asked how nursing has set her up for lifelong service she says, “It gave me confidence in myself and allowed me to come out of my shell.” Whittaker is a woman of many talents and titles. In 2018, Whittaker was named Ms. Utah Senior America and was the 3rd runner-up at the Senior Nationals pageant. Together with that honor, she was presented the 2019 Mother of Achievement award, recognizing the impact she has made outside of her family.

Whittaker also spends a lot of time in prison! She is part of “Real Transitions” that helps women transition from prison to society, as well as she serves with her husband in a branch presidency in the Utah State prison. “Whether you are preparing a prescription for a patient or serving people in your community” says Whittaker, “you must be confident in yourself at all times.”

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Whittaker visits with a US Navy veteran.

Florence Nightingale once said, “I am of certain convinced that the greatest heroes are those who do their duty in the daily grind of domestic affairs whilst the world whirls as a maddening dreidel.” In a great piece of advice given from Whittaker to current nursing students she says, “Be creative. Do what you love. Serve how you love.” It doesn’t matter if she is on stage, in the hospital or with her husband John and dog Bojo at home, she truly is a hero to all.

Sharing EHR with the World

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Photo courtesy of the HPSN World website

By Corbin Smith

One of the greatest opportunities a university faculty member can have is to receive funding that allows them to give a presentation at an academic conference. Yes, you read that right. Paid travel to go give a presentation. That is exactly what happened to two of our faculty members: assistant teaching professor Stacie Hunsaker and simulation operations supervisor Kristen Whipple. Last February, MedAffinity, a company that provides electronic heath records software and is the software used by the BYU College of Nursing, sent both Hunsaker and Whipple to the Human Patient Simulation Network (HPSN) World conference in Orlando, Florida to present on BYU’s success using EHR systems in the classroom.

Since the fall of 2016, the BYU College of Nursing has incorporated EHR software for the nursing students in semesters one through five and for graduate students in year one. As students complete labs and assignments, they input what they did into the EHR system. The labs that the students do can be reset after each lab, so students can have the same opportunity to complete the scenario. The flexibility that MedAffinity’s software provides is what helps BYU’s EHR system be so successful compared to other schools.

Many other universities have been wary about using EHR systems due to the difficulty to make it work properly and efficiently. Due to its persistence and patience, the college has shown that it can be done. “That’s what we were trying to do,” Whipple says of her purpose at the conference, “to tell people that it’s doable…and the things that we did could be done with any program.”

One aspect presented by Hunsaker and Whipple at the conference was an orientation implemented by the college. The orientation done by Whipple to students is “another big thing that changed our experience” she says. While nursing students are in their first semester, Whipple and her team of TAs go in and teach them how to input data and save their progress so each student can hit the ground running from day one. This has gone a long way in helping students effectively operate the software.

Over the last few years, university teaching of nursing has quickly turned to the realm of patient simulation and electronic health records, with the BYU College of Nursing leading the way. Hunsaker and Whipple are adamant that these programs will better prepare future nurses for their careers, and thanks to their work to motivate other universities to employ this new technology, the world of nursing is well on its way.

Nurses Are Tough! Nursing Student Helps BYU Women’s Rugby Win National Championship

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The BYU women’s rugby team is now the best division one women’s rugby team in the nation!

By Quincey Taylor

Among the 30,000 students that currently attend Brigham Young University, there is only one that is both a nursing student and a member of the BYU women’s rugby team. Her name is Larissa Graham, and she helped the team win the 2019 Spring College National Championship on May 4. The College of Nursing wants to say congratulations and is proud to have one of our students participate on this intense sports team.

Graham, who just finished her first semester in the nursing program, originally attended Western Michigan University on a basketball scholarship. It was only after dropping her scholarship to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that she decided to transfer to BYU.

She had not considered playing rugby until a fellow student and past team player urged her to try out. Graham explains, “Someone in my writing 150 class was actually on the team previously, and she said, ‘Oh, yeah, you should totally do it.’ I saw posters around the school and it kind of peaked my interest.” Rugby tryouts happened to be the same week as basketball tryouts. She decided to go to both.

After seeing the close relationship between the rugby players, Graham felt the excitement and wanted to be a part of it. It impacted her when she heard the players call each other “sisters” instead of “teammates.” She says, “I’ve been on a lot of teams in my life. I don’t think I’ve ever found a team that had as close to a bond as this rugby team did.”

Even though she had never played the sport before, Graham made the team. She has now been a critical member of the team for the past four semesters. She plays “lock,” which is a position that does a lot of the tackling. She is in the core of the scrum, and is not afraid of getting a little roughed up. She is also the player that is lifted during lineout, having an increased advantage by being six feet tall.

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After winning the national championship, the team rushed the field, hugging and crying out in joy.

Graham always knew she wanted to help other people. She says, “Since I was little, I wanted to work somewhere in the medical field. I wanted to be a doctor at first, and then I met fantastic nurse practitioners at our local family clinic and I just really wanted to be like them. They’re like the nurses that knew your name every time you came in. They remembered your family history and background. They asked you about the sports season that you’re in or religion stuff going on and they just knew who we were. I just wanted to be a personal nurse like them and help make an impact in someone’s life like they did in mine.”

Graham enjoyed her first semester and is excited to continue in the program. It has not been easy balancing the two passions, but Graham feels she has found equilibrium in her life. “I’ve noticed that the busier I am, the more likely I am to succeed. It’s kind of backwards,” she expounds, “It forces me to have a schedule.”

With such a physical sport, it is not a surprise that Graham regularly uses her nursing skills on the field with the help of assistant coach and nursing alumna Monica Jackson (’13). She laughs, “A lot of the players know that I’m a nursing student and they ask me every question in the book.” She has been able to give advice to players who are injured and is excited to grow her pool of knowledge in the following years.

Rugby has made a huge impact in Graham’s life, and she intends to continue playing on the team for as long as she can. She says, “It’s been really awesome to have a support group and immediate friends… It’s actually been a really big blessing in my life.”

So, look out for number five next time you see the team play! For anyone considering going to the next tryouts in August, know that you could not be joining a better group of sisters out there. Graham comments, “I’m excited to see the talent that we get, and I’m excited for the momentum that we have. I feel like we’re just starting the momentum. It’s building. So, I’m excited. I think the team is excited. The program as a whole is excited.”

 

 

 

2019 Graduate Students, Assemble!

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This year’s incoming master’s students, assembled for the first time.

By Quincey Taylor

With the start of the spring semester, the College of Nursing welcomes a new batch of superheroes to its ranks. They have succeeded in earning a bachelor’s degree and now face their next challenge: conquering a master’s degree! These 15 graduate students will be a valuable addition to the CON team!

This new group consist of:

  • Two male students, 13 females
  • 13 students from Utah, one from Nevada and one from Virginia
  • 8 BYU alumni and seven students from other nursing programs including Weber State University, University of Utah, University of Texas Arlington, and BYU Idaho

There is no denying these students are high-caliber considering their average GPA is 3.87 and their average Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is 306. Congratulations on being accepted!