By Kathryn Mulligan
Shawen Buekers is a fifth semester student at the College of Nursing. Along with being a current nursing student, Shawen is a former premed student, bone marrow donor, and future nurse midwife.
Shawen began her journey at BYU six years ago as a premed biology major. For her first two years at BYU, she was immersed in genetics, ecology, and physiology. However, as she began diving into the world of organic chemistry, she had what she describes as her “come to Jesus moment”: she didn’t want to be a doctor and was wasting her time.
As Shawen was reflecting and trying to discover what career path she wanted to pursue, nursing came into her mind. Her mom is a nurse, so she was exposed to nursing from a young age. As she explored nursing more and more, she realized her favorite parts of practicing medicine, like patient interaction and basic skills, were some of the main components of nursing. Once Shawen figured out nursing was the perfect fit for her, she took the prerequisites, applied for the program, and has never looked back.
The majority of Shawen’s time at the College of Nursing has been during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, she has been able to create relationships with her professors, specifically Sheri Tesseyman and Shelly Reed. Tesseyman was Shawen’s instructor for med-surg. She is fascinated by Tesseyman’s knowledge of nursing history and loved that she incorporated it into her teaching, finding it effective. Shawen also found Tesseyman to be comforting and encouraging, a vital skill for a professor teaching about nursing during a global pandemic. Reed was Shawen’s instructor for OB. She thought Reed was the master of asking thought-provoking questions that never made her students feel inadequate, but encouraged them to learn together.
These relationships with Tesseyman and Reed have sustained Shawen through nursing school. Her relationships with her patients and fellow classmates have also given her encouragement and support throughout the past years. However, one unexpected relationship has had a lasting influence on her: her relationship with a baby in need of a bone marrow transplant.
During Shawen’s freshman year of college, Be the Match, an organization dedicated to finding donors for the National Bone Marrow Registry, sponsored a family home evening activity in her ward. When she registered for the National Bone Marrow Registry and continued to maintain that registration throughout college, she never expected to be a match. However, during her winter break between Fall semester of 2020 and Winter semester of 2021, she got a call from the National Bone Marrow Registry, explaining that she was a match for someone who needed a bone marrow transplant: a little girl under the age of one. Without hesitation, Shawen agreed to be the donor, a decision she describes as “the obvious choice.”
After agreeing, she was sent several questionnaires and test kits that confirmed she was a healthy donor and the perfect match for the baby. Within two weeks of sending all of the information back to the National Bone Marrow Registry, she was informed that she was the perfect candidate and that she would move to the next phases. From there, Shawen had pre-appointments to examine her health and prepare her for the actual procedure.
The procedure was fairly simple: the doctors put Shawen under general anesthesia for the procedure. To retrieve the bone marrow, they made two small incisions over the iliac crest and proceeded to poke the bone through the incisions using a long needle. With the needle, the doctors were able to draw out the bone marrow and add it into their collections. After they were finished, they stitched up the two incisions and sent Shawen on her way. Recovery was easy. Shawen said she had some mild incision pain, soreness, and fatigue for the first few days after the procedure, but was fully recovered and rebounded within a week.
When asked if Shawen would recommend being a bone marrow donor, she responded “absolutely” without a second thought. She referred to the experience as “easy” and “rewarding.” She also explained that the National Bone Marrow Registry was flexible and willing to work with her when it came to scheduling her appointments and procedure. Her appointments never conflicted with her classes, an ideal situation for a student. Additionally, the National Bone Marrow Registry paid all of the hospital fees and travel expenses for Shawen and her mom who was there the day of the surgery.
So what’s next for Shawen after a very eventful undergraduate education? After she graduates in April of 2022, Shawen is hoping to grab a spot in a labor and delivery unit. She finds labor and delivery to be a generally happy place in the hospital and loves that she can see a patient from the beginning to the end of the process. She also loves the autonomy labor and delivery gives her as a nurse as well as the autonomy it gives to her patient as they try to reach goals and expectations together. Long term, Shawen wants to become a nurse midwife, following in the steps of Shelley Reed.
Whether it be as a student, a nurse, or a donor, Shawen Buekers is selfless and adaptable. She is such a gift to the College of Nursing and we are so grateful to have her with us!