Alumni Spotlight: Ethel Tovar

Meet our next alumni spotlight, Ethel Tovar! She grew up in Salt Lake City before attending BYU. Although her mom is a nurse, Ethel wanted to forge her own path. “My first semester, I took communications classes and thought I would study journalism,” Ethel recalled. “But my dad suggested I take generals that were nursing prerequisites, too, just to see how I liked them.” She continued, “The nursing prereqs were hard classes, but they were the ones I found most interesting.” After that, she focused on finishing the nursing prereqs to apply to the BYU College of Nursing.

Growing up, Ethel spent some time on the BYU campus for sporting events and art exhibits. “I always have had a special place in my heart for BYU,” Ethel said. As she decided where to go to college, Ethel was inspired by BYU’s motto, “Enter to learn, go forth to serve.” Additionally, she wanted to experience the unique atmosphere created by the professors at BYU. “I love how the professors integrate teaching about the Healer’s art and the Spirit. It provides the students on campus with a learning environment that isn’t anywhere else. The teachers care for the students as people and want them to succeed, they have high standards for excellence, and then, above all, they have an overarching mission to teach with the Spirit.” Ethel testified, “If students learn with the Spirit, amazing things can happen.” She acknowledged the rigor of the BYU nursing program yet encouraged students by saying, “Even though the nursing program at BYU requires a high level of excellence, at the end of it, you’re so well prepared to be a nurse in whatever area you choose. The professors are great, and they’re rooting for us to succeed as nursing students, and they teach the critical thinking skills that will help you become successful once you become a nurse.”

After graduating from nursing school in 2006, Ethel started working at Primary Children’s Hospital, where she has been for 16 years. She started in the NICU, where she filled many different roles such as staff nurse, clinical coach, expanded role nurse, and nurse educator. “This year, I transitioned to being a pediatric heart transplant coordinator. That’s been a good change.” Ethel described, “It’s been fun to be an educator, focusing more on patient education, teaching the patients and their families how to care for their new heart. I’m also a simulation facilitator with the simulation consortium at Primary Children’s Hospital.” She added, “The unique thing about pediatric care is you’re taking care of the patient, of course, but their families are also included in that circle because they’re going to be caregivers. They are learning about their child’s health needs or recovery process. So it is educating and caring for the whole family.”

“As you start to do clinical rotations in hospitals,” Ethel said, “you’ll see different ways that nurses cope with the stress of the shift or certain situations that they see with their patients. Some ways of coping are more positive than others. It’s stressful in the nursing program, learning the content and understanding all the different facets of nursing care as a student.” She advised, “Build activities into your life that help you manage the stress of the nursing program and help you stay healthy. The habits you start now can make a big difference in your life and career.”

Ethel was recognized in May in “2022 Utah Top Nurses,” presented by the Salt Lake Tribune. “I was so surprised to receive that recognition,” she admitted. “Learning about the other nurses included in that list and their contributions to the profession made me proud to be included among those extremely talented nurses. It’s an honor to represent the amazing group of professionals I work with daily.” She continued, “There were nurses from all different units and specialties. It was just so amazing to see all the great work that nurses in Utah are doing, and I was truly honored to be part of that group.”

“Something at the core of the Healer’s art,” Ethel explained, “is being present and focusing on the nursing care at hand, be that an assessment or listening to a patient describe symptoms or doing a procedure. It takes a moment to focus on the person you’re serving. Patients can sense the energy, compassion, and nursing skills their nurse has. And it is a privilege and a beautiful opportunity to be there for patients and their families, and pausing to be mindful of that when you’re in the moment can bring out some experiences that can help you catch things that will be important in your patient’s care for that shift.” But, she added, “Above all, it’ll help your patients know that you care for them as a person and as they are in a very vulnerable healing situation, whatever that may be.”

Tovar with her family

Ethel spends her free time with her husband and two children. “Seeing my children discovering the world and enjoying playing in the park or running around reminds me of the things that are really important.”

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