By Steven Tibbitts
Steven Tibbitts has worked as a Public Relations Assistant in the BYU College of Nursing since August 2016. He is a Middle East Studies/Arabic major with a minor in International Strategy and Diplomacy.
I confuse people when I meet them. It’s quite entertaining.
Usually it starts when I go to one of my PoliSci classes wearing a College of Nursing media team shirt. As I’m prepping for class, a professor or a student walks by and does the standard maneuver where he or she stops, leans in, and squints at my left breast pocket to see the nursing logo (my eyes are up here).
“Nursing? You’re a nursing major?” Usually this is mixed with some level of surprise, since no one expects to find a nurse in a class about international conflict (forgetting that it will be nurses who handle the aftermath of any fight).
“No, I’m actually an Arabic major; I just work at the College of Nursing.”
That’s when the really funny look of confusion sets in. I might as well have just said that I retake American Heritage every semester for fun or actually find TBS shows funny.
“Oh, that’s interesting. What do you do?”
By this point, the cognitive dissonance operates at full steam. Yes, I tell them, I’m a Middle East Studies/Arabic major working as a PR assistant in the BYU nursing college.
Apparently, oranges can be apples.
I’ve worked at the BYU College of Nursing for almost two years straight now. It’s been a wonderful time for me, and I’ve come to know a wonderful part of the BYU community that I never would have experienced otherwise.
The continual dedication and determination of nursing faculty and students is incredible. These students spend one day a week working clinicals at local hospitals, helping real patients as they hone skills that they may one day use on you if your pancreas explodes or if you get the flu (preferably the latter). Their education actually leads to them literally saving people’s lives. That’s impressive.
I’ve also learned something else—these students bring so many different talents and backgrounds to the table that it becomes a cornucopia of unique abilities and skills. If you think being an Arabic major working PR in nursing is special, go talk to Michael Scott, who was a professional firefighter before going to nursing school (https://tinyurl.com/ybgyo672) or assistant teaching professor Rod Newman, who wins cowboy sharpshooter competitions when he isn’t teaching (https://tinyurl.com/y9ukqqh3).
So much for all nurses being the same. In my time here, I met one student who spent a month biking to raise funds for cancer research (https://tinyurl.com/yd2akawc). I interviewed others who took time out of their busy schedule to tutor a fellow nursing student during a visit the Holy Land (https://tinyurl.com/y85evspk). Another graduate student told me about her work visiting refugee camps in Greece and Jordan and evaluating conditions on the ground (https://tinyurl.com/y9ryz7bq).
The same goes for teachers. Assistant teaching professor Scott Summers inspired me when he told me about how his family faced the trial of having a son born with an incredibly rare medical condition (https://tinyurl.com/zuljgr4). I spent a day shadowing associate professor Dr. Beth Luthy and assistant teaching professor Lacey Eden as representatives from the CDC interviewed them about their work on immunizations (https://tinyurl.com/y6uxxjgs). Did you know that one of the nursing faculty once woke up to the sound of missiles exploding above his apartment (https://tinyurl.com/ybf96m22)?
Even the nursing alumni continue to change both the world and me. I connected with one BYU nursing grad who helped start an international clinic in Abu Dhabi, and turned out to be family! (see our latest magazine). Another of our best-known examples is Holly Christensen, an alumna who now runs a special organization that makes princess and pirate wigs for children with cancer (https://tinyurl.com/kmhlrfl)
One of the most touching experiences I had at the College was interviewing representatives from the advocacy organization Meningitis Angels. Johnny Dantona, 21, was one of the organization’s workers who hobbled out of an elevator to meet with me in September 2016. Johnny lost both of his legs to meningitis at a young age. However, despite the crippling effects of the disease, he continued to participate in ROTC (including running a mile on the track without prosthetics) and volunteer with Meningitis Angels (https://tinyurl.com/y6wu7hsb).
The lesson I keep coming back to is that nobody can be defined by a single label. There is so much more to everyone that we meet, each of whom has a different set of background experiences, talents, and interests. Our nursing students are not just expert medical workers—they are communicators, designers, athletes, singers, and activists.
It’s in our best interest to get to know people in a way that prevents generalization and truly allows for the applying of the Healer’s art. It’s about loving each person one by one and not simply lumping him or her into one category based on one identifying trait. I’m forever grateful to the nursing students and faculty who showed me by their example how to be a more caring and compassionate individual.