Author Archives: nursingdevo

Nursing Graduate Student Exemplifying Love through Refugee Care

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Nicki Broby completed refugee research in Jordan and Greece.

As August graduation draws near, graduate student Nicki Broby looks back at how far she has come since starting the family nurse practitioner program (BYU’s master degree in nursing), as well as see how life prepared her for her research focus.

Broby’s nursing career began while she was on an LDS mission in Washington D.C. She was serving during the 9/11 attacks, and one of her immediate responsibilities was to help the Red Cross in their relief efforts. As she finished this service, she realized that nursing was the right path for her.

She transferred from BYU to Arizona State University to study undergraduate nursing, and after graduation started work in a pediatric intensive care unit with no thought of becoming a nurse practitioner. That changed when she got the service opportunity of a lifetime.

“In 2011, I quit my job in the PICU because I had the chance to live on a Navy ship for five months,” she says.  As an LDS Charities nurse representative, she traveled with other volunteers to nine countries, providing medical services to around 80,000 people. While serving as a translator for various nurse practitioners, she developed a deep respect for their ability to offer high levels of care to patients, sparking a desire to earn her advanced nursing degree.

Read Related Story: Five Month Nursing “Cruise” On A Naval Hospital Ship

After serving a two-and-a-half year part-time mission for the Church as a medical volunteer, she entered BYU’s graduate program in April 2015 and focused a thesis project on what makes international aid interventions effective.

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“When I was doing my thesis, I found out that there was very little information for someone who says, ‘Hey, I want to start my own international medical disaster response team,’” she explains.

She presented the idea to then associate dean Dr. Mary Williams, who was immediately supportive and helped her assemble her committee, which included Dr. Jane Lassetter and Dr. Blaine Winters. All proved invaluable as mentors during the entire project, helping Broby improve as a nurse, writer, and researcher.

Step one was to interview leadership in various aid organizations in the United States, getting their opinion on what made their operations effective. Those interviews were transcribed and evaluated for successful strategies. Step two required obtaining input from workers on the ground.

“To do that, I was hosted generously by the International Medical Corps at their field operation sites in Greece and Jordan,” Broby says. For two weeks, Broby and a colleague traveled to three refugee camps, interviewing dozens of local aid leaders to figure out what improved and impeded their successes.

“It was jam packed; it was amazing and exhausting, and extremely informative,” she says. Their research highlighted various factors that people who want to get involved in aid work should consider. It also gave her a closer look at the refugee crisis, offering her precious insights into how ordinary people can show charity through service.

 

DSC_0765Broby also admires how both BYU and the College of Nursing specifically rely on the teachings of the Savior to enhance students’ experiences.

“It is obvious that Jesus Christ is the exemplar that we’re not just told to follow in this program, but that our professors are following,” she says. “That touches everything that we do, whether we are learning about how to treat the common cold or going to a refugee camp in Greece, it touches all of that, it changes all of that, and it deepens all of that.”

Immunization Exemptions and Pediatric Care

As a family nurse practitioner working in a pediatric outpatient clinic, assistant teaching professor Lacey Eden (BS ’02, MS ’09) educates parents about the general health of their child. Eden frequently addresses parents’ questions and concerns regarding immunizations for their child due to the requirement that parents provide either proof of completion or a certificate of exemption before their child can be enrolled in school.

Because of her experiences talking with parents about immunizations, Eden decided to research the rising immunization exemption rates in Utah. She is currently working on a standardized education module for immunization exemptions and also a mobile app called Best for Baby.

Education Model for Immunization Exemption Rates

Immunization exemption rates, particularly those granted for philosophical reasons, have risen drastically in Utah over the last few years. The rise in exemptions may have played a role in several recent outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases (measles and pertussis) in Utah, which prompted Eden to research the education provided for parents who wish to obtain an exemption. Currently she is investigating the specific education requirements for philosophical immunization exemptions in all states across the country and how effective this education is at combating the rise in exemption rates.

In her research, Eden found that all 50 states allow medical exemptions for immunizations, 48 states allow religious exemptions, and 18 states allow philosophical exemptions. Utah is one of the 18 states that allows all three types of exemptions. While 18 states allow philosophical exemptions, only 14 states require education before granting exemptions. The type of education parents receive varies from state to state and from county to county throughout Utah.

Eden has discussed her study with several prominent leaders of various associations and departments, including the health director and the immunization manager at the Utah State Health Department and the chair of the Utah Department of Human Services, in efforts to implement a standardized education module for Utahns to complete in order to gain a philosophical immunization exemption. She has also been invited to participate on an immunization exemption task force with several key participants in the state and with fellow College of Nursing faculty—Dr. Beth Luthy (MS ’05), Gaye Ray (AS ’81), Dr. Janelle Macintosh, and Dr. Renea Beckstrand (AS ’81, BS ’83, MS ’87). This task force is charged with creating a standardized education module that can teach parents the signs and symptoms of diseases, what to do if their child contracts a disease, and what to do in the case of an outbreak. The module will also answer frequently asked questions about immunizations and provide information about obtaining low-cost immunizations.

The Association of Immunization Managers and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have contributed to this project by aiding in the data-collection process and reviewing the research questions on educational requirements in reducing immunization exemptions.

Best for Baby App

In 2013, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) published its recommendation that pregnant women should get a Tdap vaccination between 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy. Infants do not receive this vaccine until two months of age, but in the womb they do inherit temporary protective antibodies from their mothers, so it is essential for mothers to receive the vaccine and pass antibodies to their children in utero.

Despite being recommended by the ACIP, very few women receive the Tdap vaccine during their third trimester, so Eden, who serves as chair of the Utah County Immunization Coalition, decided to educate soon-to-be parents through a free mobile-device app called Best for Baby (now available on iTunes).

Though geared toward increasing Tdap immunization rates, the app does much more than just teach about vaccines. The program sends expectant parents weekly push notifications that provide updates on their baby’s development and when they need to see their OB/GYN. Additionally, updates tell parents what tests to expect at their next appointment, what those tests look for, and why they are performed. The app continues to give parents monthly push notifications for two years after the birth of the child. These updates include when the child should see a care provider, what developmental milestones he or she should reach during the month, and what immunizations that child should receive.

I Would Learn The Healer’s Art

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. 

I Would Learn The Healer’s Art

Judy Malzahn Ellsworth

Working in the Operating Room at Fairfax Hospital in Northern Virginia meant never having a dull moment.  Fairfax Hospital is just blocks off the western end of the Washington D.C. Beltway on the Virginia side.  Each day brought new challenges, and we had to be ready for anything.

I was working as the Assistant Head Nurse in charge of the Operating Room from 4:00 pm until midnight every day.  One Sunday afternoon I got a call from the delivery room telling me that they had a very serious situation.  A mother who had just delivered was hemorrhaging and they were unable to control it…did we have an operating room available?  We had four rooms running, and that was the maximum we could run that afternoon.  I told them I would call them right back.

I talked with Anesthesia, and we decided that I could scrub the case, and we would pull a circulator from a case that would be finishing within the hour to circulate for me, if Delivery would send an RN down to circulate in the ‘easy’ room.  Arrangements were made with the Critical Care Supervisor to man the OR desk, and the go-ahead was given for the case to proceed.

I rushed to pull the case, scrub, and set up the room.  While I was busy, the doctors brought the anesthetized patient into the room and prepped her for abdominal surgery. I put all the drapes on a draping table and told them they were on their own, as I was still opening instruments and setting up the Mayo. By the time I brought my Mayo to the field, I had gowned and gloved a doctor and two residents, and the patient was fully draped and ready to go.

The case was truly a serious situation.  This was in the days before the ‘Bovie’, and we clamped and tied each bleeder.  Every time a bleeder was clamped, the clamp acted like a hot knife going through butter.  We changed to using a needle to just tie off the bleeders.  This didn’t work any better.  We packed her abdomen and waited to see if the bleeders would clot off.  This was not successful.  The situation was getting desperate.

I was feeling heartsick at our seemingly helpless situation.  I knew this particular doctor was not one that any of us would refer anyone to, and I knew we needed help.  I felt like the patient was my sister, and I could feel the tears beginning to sting my eyes.  I was the charge nurse, and I was scrubbed in the case and unable to call for anyone to come to help us.  While we were waiting to see if packing the abdomen was going to be successful, I turned to my back table, closed my eyes and pleaded with Heavenly Father to please send someone quickly, as this new mother needed more help than this physician was able to give her.

About 10 minutes later the door to the operating room opened slightly and the Chief of OB/Gyn peeked inside.  He said he’d been out on a Sunday drive with his boys, and he felt like he needed to stop in at the hospital to see how everything was going.  The doctor who was operating explained the situation, but said he thought he had everything under control.  The Chief asked if he thought he could use another hand, to which the doctor said, “No!”  I was shocked, and I looked at the Chief and said, “I have an extra gown here, what size gloves do you wear?”  (He later told me the look in my eyes told him he’d better start scrubbing STAT!)

We worked for three more hours, with the Chief eventually taking over the case.  The patient was saved, and my grateful heart said several prayers of thanksgiving while we were working.

As we were finishing the case, the doctor said that he was so happy that we had been able to save her.  She was LDS and this was her eighth child.  I said to him, “Will you tell her that I am also a Mormon, and I was her nurse during her surgery?”

When the patient was taken to the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (Recovery Room), I realized that the doctors and circulator had forgotten to take her chart with them.  I picked the chart up and started to take it to PACU when I read the nameplate of the patient.  Imagine my shock when I realized that my impressions during the surgery of this being “my sister” were correct.  She had been my visiting teaching companion when we both lived in Seattle, Washington several years before!  Neither one of us knew that we were now both living in the Washington, D.C. area.

I called up to the Delivery Room and asked for her husband to come down to the Recovery Room.  When he arrived, I asked him if he had his consecrated oil with him.  He did, and he had a friend with him.  I arranged for them to give his wife a blessing.

I am grateful that not only was I privileged to learn The Healer’s Art at the Lord’s university, but that I was also taught to listen to the promptings of the Spirit and act accordingly.  Being a BYU graduate has been an honor, and it has allowed me many missionary opportunities.  Being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been an enormous blessing to me personally, and to all those who have been entrusted to my care.

Trekking for Cultural Understanding

Amy Boswell looked down at her hiking shoes and sighed. The deep tread on the bottom had long since filled with mud and was now useless. She had known there would be a lot of trekking on the trip, but this went beyond that. Going straight up the mountain, no switchback trails, she wondered how the native guides ahead of her did this day in and day out. Suddenly her foot slipped. Startled, sliding, skidding, she fell. Finally stopping, covered with mud, she looked up to see a smiling guide, hand stretched out to help her back up.

In spring 2016 BYU College of Nursing students traveled to Vietnam for the first time. There they experienced a clinical practicum for the Public and Global Health Nursing course unlike any other. Students journeyed to a remote region in northern Vietnam, visited the hill tribes there, lived with local families, and provided instruction on healthcare. This cultural immersion provided an exceptional experience for students to gain perspective they will apply in their future careers.

 

THE PREPARATION

Associate teaching professor Cheryl A. Corbett (BS ’89, MS ’96) knew she needed to find a site where students could learn from a truly foreign culture. She knew Vietnam would fit the bill, but she did not know how enthusiastic students would be.

“One of my concerns was if I would have students who would want this kind of experience,” Corbett says. “We needed students who could sleep with the bugs, live in the rafters with the people, and eat their unique foods—things which might put someone out of their comfort zone.”

Corbett pressed forward with her plan and traveled to Vietnam for a two-week scouting trip. She found great clinical opportunities among some amazing people and came back ready to take students who were willing and ready to go on an adventure.

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THE TREKKING

Nestled near the Chinese border in the hills of northern Vietnam is a town called Sa Pa. Residents include people from several ethnic minorities, including the Hmong, who also live in scattered tribes across the surrounding countryside. Nursing students spent three weeks trekking up and down mountains to reach these villages. With the help of their three Hmong guides, the nursing students were able to reach several isolated communities, sometimes hiking 10 to 12 miles per day.

“Our guides were literally in slip-on sandals running up and down the mountains,” says Boswell, a sixth-semester nursing student. “Here we were in these beautiful hiking shoes slipping and falling everywhere we went. I remember one guide, named Mai (we called her Mama). She would always help us up after a fall. I especially had a reputation for falling up and down the mountains.”

With the nearest healthcare facility more than eight hours away, students had to rely on their own abilities and use caution. However, even though the trekking was more intense than expected, the group realized it was worth it as they became immersed in the unique culture.

“The people in the hill tribes are shy, but they want to share,” says associate teaching professor Karen M. Lundberg (AS ’79). “Our Hmong guides were able to get us into tiny villages that we wouldn’t have been able to get into otherwise.”

The group found that simply spending time with the people worked best to help them open up. Rather than quickly asking to see homes and healing practices, they stopped and took the time to communicate with them through gestures, smiles, and exchanges. And with the help of their guides, the students felt the Hmong people become receptive.

 

HMONG HEALING PRACTICES

None of the group members will ever forget the elderly female shaman they came across performing a ceremony in one of the villages. The Hmong people believe they have a certain number of spirits in their body. When they get sick the spirits leave, and it becomes necessary for a shaman to perform rituals to collect the spirits and put them back in the bodies of patients. The memorable healing ceremony included the shaman sacrificing a duck.

Following the experience, group members were struck by the reaction from the people of the village. Lundberg recalls the trust that developed because they were accepting of the Hmong culture. “After we had that experience, the shaman asked us to see one of her grandchildren, who suffered from something like cerebral palsy,” Lundberg says. “She wanted to know if the child could be cured if he went to the hospital; the family wanted our opinion. I believe if we had just walked in and asked if there were something we could teach or do, they wouldn’t have let us in to see this child.”

Although a hospital trip wouldn’t have cured the child, students were able to provide him with care to make him more comfortable. They found this developmentally delayed child lying in a state of atrophy. His feet had been tangled in a fishing net so tight that it cut off his circulation. The students checked his skin for breakdown, cut the nets off his toes, and explained what needed to be done to further care for him. The students smiled at the child and called him by name, hoping to provide the comfort he needed.

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TEACHING AND LEARNING

Throughout their experience students learned how to build trust and listen to the people, incorporating Hmong beliefs with Western medicine to create healing together. They were also able to teach some simple healthcare practices and deliver much-needed supplies.

Eyesight is crucial in Hmong culture. Villagers make all of their own clothing, from growing the hemp plants to dyeing the finished product. The women are expected to do intricate hand stitching on all their clothing, but as they get older, they cannot see up close and can no longer be productive.

Corbett remembers distributing reading glasses they brought to these Hmong women. “To watch them put on these glasses and see a whole new world open up was so amazing,” she says. “They could see little things again. Seeing their smiling faces made me think of how much we take eyesight for granted… Getting these eyeglasses was like the best present they ever had.”

Students also got to teach dental hygiene and hand-washing techniques to the Hmong people they met along the way. The students were happy to give away toothbrushes and eager to teach good practices. They found that many families had only one toothbrush to share and would often use it for cleaning purposes, including scrubbing the mud from their shoes when they got home from the rice fields

LIVING AMONG THE HMONG

The BYU group spent nights in the homes of the people they were visiting. They slept on mats in rafters where the families usually store their rice. During long treks and the quiet nights in the villages, students had time to reflect on the people they were around.

Boswell found the generosity of the Hmong people particularly impressive. “While trekking, those we met would invite us into their home, asking if we had eaten that day and if they could share their rice,” she says. “The Hmong people have so much less to give than I do, and they were so willing at any second to just give it. I came back realizing I need to open my heart and be more hospitable and kind to people.”

The group was also impressed by the Hmong family dynamic as the villagers sat together on the dirt floors of their homes and cooked over open fires. The Throughout their experience students and families would have dinner together, talk together, and laugh together.

“Dinnertime is notable for the Hmong,” Lundberg says. “Even though they just have one small light bulb hanging over the table, they sit around and talk and laugh late into the night. It was so awesome seeing how connected the families were, with several generations living in the same home.”

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GIVING BACK

The Hmong people are subsistence farmers. During the planting season, whatever rice they plant is what they will live off of for the next year.

In one village, the students found a widow who was unable to get her rice planted. Instead of just observing her predicament, the students got to work in the rice paddy.

Corbett remembers how much the group learned from this experience. “Rather than put on someone else’s shoes to learn about them, we had to take ours off,” she says. “We were in the mud up to our knees for over five hours doing backbreaking work. It was so eye-opening to learn the intricate process of planting. . . . I think we all left with a new appreciation for rice. None of us ever want to let a single grain of rice fall off a table ever again.”

 

BRINGING IT BACK HOME

Even though their Public and Global Health Nursing course was not in a hospital setting, students found that the things they learned had extraordinary applications in their own healthcare practice.

“When students step out of their ethnocentric viewpoint, they gain the ability to see the world in a different way,” Corbett says. “They can take that and use it whenever they treat a patient from another culture. They can understand the patient’s belief and use that to help heal them.”

And students learned that cultural beliefs can vary from patient to patient. They found that some Hmong people were culturally opposed to a hospital visit while others would choose the option when they need it.

“You can’t just assume something about an individual based on the culture,” says Megan Zitting (BS ’09, MS ’16), a graduate student who came on the trip as an assistant. “What an individual believes about healthcare and what they desire the moment they’re sick and need treatment might be completely different.”

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LOOKING FORWARD

The inaugural Vietnam trip provided an excellent foundation for coming trips. This year organizers plan on helping the Hmong trek guides learn first-aid and dental-hygiene education and practices.

Students will continue to bring a minimal amount of first-aid and dental hygiene items. They do not want to change the Hmong people, just provide them with healthcare concepts. “We want them to be self-sufficient and not rely on outsiders bringing things to them. Our plan is to bring materials they wouldn’t have access to but need,” Corbett says.

Zitting adds, “You have to dig deep and establish connections in a place before you can help them. You have to be able to see what their needs are and see what you actually can or cannot do to help them. Some people have this idea that they can just help people everywhere, but it takes some time and relationship building to be able to get in there and make a difference. And we’ve got a great start in Vietnam.”

This story was published in our spring 2017 college magazine. It was written by Nathan Brown, a college student employee.

Patient as Healer

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. 

Julie

Julie and her grandchildren in Berlin, Germany with the #YNursing52 logo. There is still time to send images of your travels with the logo; send them to nursingpr@byu.edu.

Patient as Healer

Julie Price (BS ’85)

One experience that meant so much to me personally during nursing school involved a patient “healing” me.  I had gone through the entire secondary education program, hoping to become a high school biology teacher. During my final semester of student teaching, however, I decided I did not want to become a high school teacher.  I had all of the prerequisites for nursing so I applied for the program and was accepted.

As I started the program, I was feeling a bit discouraged: I was older than most of the students and couldn’t decide what I really wanted out of life. Most of my friends were married. Was I supposed to go on a mission? Was I a loser?

Those were my feelings when I met one of my first patients at the hospital.  He was an older dignified gentleman.  After chatting with him a bit and going in and out of the room a few times, he stopped me and told me to come closer to him.

I will never forget his words to me.  He looked me right in the eye and said, “You are a really good girl, aren’t you?”

I didn’t know where he was going with that kind of question.  I answered, “Well, I’m trying to be.”

He patted my hand and said, “I am a Stake Patriarch and I can tell those kinds of things.  You are well loved.”

My eyes filled with tears as he confirmed what I already knew, but was beginning to doubt.  I left the hospital that day feeling so much better about myself.  God loved me and in the eternal scheme of things, whatever happened, it would be all right.

I have thought of that conversation often over the years and it always fills me with joy and hope.  That patient taught me the art of healing.

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.