Category Archives: College of Nursing News

All Hands on Deck: BYU Nursing Students Onboard the USNS Mercy

By Calvin Petersen

As BYU nursing students and faculty boarded the thousand-bed floating hospital moored in San Diego Bay, they realized their experience on the USNS Mercy was going to be more than just salutes and strict rules. Over the next two days, they had the unique opportunity to see firsthand how the military cares for its veterans.

A Rare Invitation

The San Diego trip resulted from a phone call Dr. Kent Blad received one sweltering morning last summer. Blad is a teaching professor and director of the veteran global health program at the BYU College of Nursing. When he answered the phone, Blad was surprised to hear the man on the other end introduce himself as lieutenant commander of the USNS Mercy, the hospital ship commissioned to serve the Pacific fleet. In addition to supporting military personnel with medical and surgical services, the Mercy undertakes humanitarian relief missions.

The Mercy’s lieutenant commander had read about BYU’s veteran global health course, co-taught by Blad and assistant teaching professor Stacie Hunsaker. He asked, “What can you tell me about what I just read?” “Funny you ask,” Blad replied, “I’ve been waiting for this phone call.”

By the end of the conversation, the lieutenant commander invited Blad, Hunsaker and their nursing students to San Diego to tour the Mercy and Naval Medical Center San Diego. Naval Medical Center San Diego is one of three major U.S. polytrauma centers that serve wounded warriors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“That was the first time we’ve received an invitation,” explains Blad, “Usually we go out there and beg, ‘Can we please come do this?’ And he asked, ‘Can you please come here?’”

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When the USNS Mercy is en route, nurses do simulations, much like at BYU’s NLC, to keep their skills sharp.

First-class Veteran Care

Although veteran global health students travel to Washington D.C. each spring to tour military medical facilities, Blad and Hunsaker felt the additional trip to San Diego would further enrich the students’ military cultural understanding. What the two professors didn’t know was how beneficial the experience would be for them as well.

“I’ve cared for veterans, but until being with them an entire day and spending that time, it was hard to understand the magnitude of the military in their lives,” says Hunsaker, “It’s a part of them, it’s not just a little job. They’re part of a military family, they have a set of beliefs and they love their country. And they really are willing to do whatever needs to be done to serve it. I don’t think I ever knew, to that extent, and hadn’t felt as grateful as I should to them.”

Jeana Escobar, one of the global health nursing students on the trip, learned that veteran care starts with the basics. “Every Navy sailor we met said the same two things: first, that every veteran has a story and you should take time to listen to it and, second, veterans don’t want your sympathy. Veterans want you to listen to them and tell them what they need to do to progress in the healing process.”

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BYU nursing student Jeana Escobar practices CPR on one of the USNS Mercy’s simulation lab manikins.

Students repeatedly saw nurses’ compassionate care for veterans as they toured Naval Medical Center San Diego’s facilities. A therapist working in the wounded warrior unit even confessed that, after starting work with “these brave men and women,” he would find himself crying randomly because of so much pent-up emotion.

The hospital’s courtyard, which was retrofitted with different terrains and a rock climbing wall for amputees to practice using new prosthetic limbs, impressed several students. “I was especially touched by what the physical therapist shared with us about the rock wall,” says nursing student JeriAnn Pack. “He described how, when someone is discouraged and thinks they will never progress, they can look up and see someone with an injury as bad or worse than their own climbing the wall. I can only imagine how inspiring that would be.”

“The students learned very quickly to appreciate these men and women and the part that nursing plays in helping these veterans recover,” Blad says of the nurses on the Mercy and in the naval hospital. “It truly is the Healer’s art in action. The love they have for their country and their patients is inspiring. We could all be more like that with any of our patients.”

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An Unforgettable Experience

The Navy specifically planned the two-day trip in February to meet College of Nursing veteran global health objectives. In addition to touring the Mercy’s simulation center and hospital facilities for a day, students spent a day at the USS Midway Museum, as well as at Navy facilities on the base. “They really took their time and effort and energy, not only to make us feel welcome, but to help us in educating our students,” says Hunsaker.

To several students, the highlight of the trip was a panel where Navy officers and nurses shared their perspectives and personal stories of how they came to join the military. “It was really cool to see how different everyone was, and that they had all been brought to this common cause,” says nursing student Lauren Bretzing.


“They don’t have amazing living quarters,” says Heather Wilkinson. Seven nursing students show how cramped living quarters on the USNS Mercy are.

For students like Heather Wilkinson, who had previously interacted with elderly veterans, seeing young men and women recovering from current conflicts changed her perception of what a typical veteran looks like. Other students were impressed with the camaraderie and respect of military culture. Undoubtedly each student thought, as Breeze Hollingsworth did, “Maybe military service will be in my future and maybe not. But one thing is for sure: I want to better serve all veterans and active service men and women I come across.”

Because the San Diego trip was such an all-around success, the Navy has already invited Blad and Hunsaker’s class to come again next year. “We feel very strongly that our nurses need to learn how to care for veterans,” says Blad. “It doesn’t matter where they go or what hospital they serve in, as long as they’re within the United States, they’re going to be caring for veteran patients.”

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Graduating from the Classroom to the Delivery Room

By Calvin Petersen

Perhaps more than anything, graduation is a time for questions. Those graduating ask questions like: Will I get more sleep now? What am I going to do with my life? Will I live where I want to? Will I find a job? Will I be any good at it?

Those who aren’t graduating yet ask: Will I get more sleep now? What am I going to do with my life? How can I be ready for graduation when it’s my turn? Will I be prepared for the real world?

Larissa Black, who graduated from the BYU College of Nursing last December, is evidence that some of these questions really do have answers.

The New Nurse on the Unit

Larissa is from Tomball, Texas, and has a pair of fake cowboy boots and a love of barbecue to prove it. After graduating and conquering the NCLEX, Larissa began her job as a labor and delivery nurse at the University of Utah Hospital.

“My patients come in pregnant and they leave with a baby. That’s the best way to describe it,” says Larissa.

However, the transition from college student to full-time nurse hasn’t been as seamless as Larissa had hoped.

“Starting my career has been difficult because I feel like I’m trying to figure out a million things at once,” she says. Those million things include learning a charting system she’s never used before, remembering policies specific to her hospital and a long list of things to check for every patient. Larissa found that one of the best ways to take on her tasks is simply observing how others do it.

Larissa works closely with three nurses who take turns training her. “Everything always gets done,” she says, “but they go about it a little bit differently.” Seeing the nurses’ different methods for doing things gives Larissa the opportunity to decide for herself which practices are most effective and which ones aren’t. By taking the best practices together, Larissa will already have an efficient routine when she finishes her training.


A Labor of Love (or a Love of Labor)

Since she sees people “at their worst” every day, Larissa has frequent opportunities to practice the Healer’s art and demonstrate compassion.

“The most important thing is to be kind and non-judgmental,” she says. “Besides the physical tasks of nursing, like hanging medications and taking vital signs, there is a side of nursing that’s about helping someone to heal emotionally and spiritually. It’s easy to forget that aspect, but remembering it is so important in helping people.”

It was out of a desire to help people that Larissa initially decided to become a nurse. She’s also fascinated with the human body and even watched ‘Untold Stories of the ER’ when she was younger.

“I was really lucky to be one of the few who knew what they wanted to do from the beginning,” she says. “I never had to change my major.”

Her passion for women’s health made labor and delivery a natural fit for Larissa. Of her experience in the L&D unit so far, she says, “I just love it, it’s amazing! And it never gets old. Every time I’m with a patient and am able to be there when she has her baby, it is 100 percent the coolest thing ever, every single time.”


Reflections on Nursing School

Something Larissa wishes she would have done while still in school is work in a hospital part-time.

“I’ve noticed that my cohorts who worked as CNAs or phlebotomists or medical assistants in some aspect are much more comfortable with the way that hospitals and clinics run because they’ve been there. They’re already used to it, so when they graduate they’re just stepping up into a different role.”

Nevertheless, one of the most valuable experiences Larissa had at BYU was working as a TA in the simulation lab. Each semester she set up and administered simulation labs, as well as voiced the manikins during simulations.

“That helped me in so many ways,” Larissa explains, “I saw simulations several times, so now if I ever have a patient who shows certain signs and symptoms, I’ll remember what to do.” Her job also led to lasting friendships with faculty and peers.

When asked what she does for fun outside of work, Larissa laughed and said, “Sleeping.” Apparently, even after the stress of homework and finals are long gone, sleep is still a rare commodity.

Larissa doesn’t have all the answers and still isn’t sure what her future holds. However, she’s never forgotten what her capstone preceptor often said, “Larissa! Slow down. You don’t have to walk that fast.” This response to Larissa’s constant power-walking to and from patient rooms has become a mantra for her life. “Just slow down,” Larissa says, “It’s okay. Take a deep breath, everything is fine. Eat a snack if you need a snack. Take care of yourself and then go take care of others.”


Taking Wing to New Heights

By Calvin Petersen

From extreme sports to nursing and humanitarian work, Debra Wing isn’t afraid of trying new things. Now after teaching at BYU’s College of Nursing for 11 years, Wing will again embrace something new: retirement. And considering her life so far, Wing’s retirement will be far from dull.


Debra Wing (left) and her husband Kelly (second from right) with their three children. Wing says her children and three grandchildren are “the joys of my life.”

Nursing Runs in the Family

Growing up, Wing watched her two older sisters attend nursing school and work at hospitals. As they shared inspiring experiences, Wing thought she would love nursing too.

“I started my freshman year at BYU taking all the nursing prereqs and working in a hospital,” she remembers, “and I kept thinking, ‘I hate this.’”

Wing decided to study business instead at a neighboring college. But before she left BYU, she married Kelly Wing, a military man who had just returned from serving an LDS mission. “We met in a BYU family home evening,” she recalls with a chuckle. After graduating with a business degree, Wing spent the next 10 years as a businesswoman.

“Yet, I always felt something was missing,” she says, “so, with very small children, I went back to nursing school and finished my bachelor’s.”

This was made possible by an opportunity with the military. It needed nurses and was willing to help pay for Wing’s college; Wing needed a job and financial aid. With the added incentive that her husband was already in the Air Force, she joined. “I found out I loved the military,” Wing says, “so I just stayed in.”


Wing with her sister and nursing professor, Deanna Williams, on graduation day.

Nursing on the Front Lines

One of the things Wing enjoyed most about her military nursing career was doing clinical oversight for EMEDS training. In this role, she instructed hundreds of National Guard and Army Reserve medical personnel on how to provide support in war zones. She also worked with Homeland Security to train national disaster relief organizations on how to respond to every kind of disaster—from hurricanes to hostage situations.

“Something I really loved about my career is that nursing continually reinvents itself,” Wing says, “what we thought we knew about nursing yesterday isn’t what we’re going to know about nursing tomorrow.”

Wing herself was “reinvented” dozens of times during her career as she took on new nursing roles. Perhaps her favorite “reinvention” was becoming a mission nurse for the LDS Korea Seoul Mission in 2015. According to Wing, her mission wasn’t the quietest in the world.

“We were right up by the DMZ, 17 miles from the northern border,” she says, “there were missile exchanges and gunfire right in our backyard.”


Wing’s husband swearing her in as a United States Air Force officer.

In it for the Thrill

Outside of her nursing career, Wing is an extreme sports enthusiast. “I love anything that’s a little bit dangerous,” she says.

Before she met her husband, Wing’s boyfriend in high school and college was a racecar driver. “Our dates consisted of racing,” she remembers, smiling mischievously. Now one of her favorite things to do is drive cars at 150+ mph. However, since the Autobahn hasn’t come to Utah, she makes do with crawling over Southern Utah rocks in her Subaru Outback.

On top of racing cars, Wing is an extreme skier. In fact, she used to race the downhill and super-G professionally. With her approaching retirement, Wing plans to finally take up the extreme sport she’s always wanted to: skydiving.


Wing (second from left) and colleague Gaye Ray (second from right) hold up a sign for the anniversary of the BYU College of Nursing, established in 1952. The two professors traveled with students, including Erin Marshall (left) and Mike McNeil (right), to Pamplona, Spain, for the International Family Nursing Conference in 2017.

Onward and Upward

Wing’s other plans for retirement include working with several organizations to teach medical education in developing countries. “I’ll be leaving the University, but I’m not leaving nursing,” she says.

Wing has worked with Healing Hands for Haiti and IVUMED in past humanitarian efforts and intends to resume those efforts. “I’m excited to be able to go back and do that,” she says. Furthermore, Wing will continue to volunteer regularly at Provo Food and Care Coalition. She and her husband also want to serve another LDS mission.

Reflecting on her experience as a nurse, she says, “What made my nursing career worthwhile was the opportunity I had to serve people every day. I love that experience of giving of myself. There’s a reward that comes from caring that’s far greater than monetary rewards.”

If she could give her younger self any piece of advice, Wing says it would be to enjoy the journey more. “Don’t spend so much time worrying about what has to get done,” she advised, “I think we can become too serious about the task and forget how joyful the journey can be.”

Wing is proud of her accomplishments at the College of Nursing. In addition to working tirelessly to make the NLC expansion a possibility, Wing has mentored numerous students. “I’m very grateful for the students and I’m very grateful for my colleagues,” Wing says, “Working in the College of Nursing has been a beautiful experience because of them.”

Volunteers at BYU Craft 301 Yarn Wigs for Children Battling Cancer

By Calvin Petersen

More than 500 people sacrificed sleep and St. Patrick’s Day plans to make yarn wigs for child cancer patients at the Magic Yarn Project’s largest-ever wig workshop. Co-hosted by the Magic Yarn Project and BYU College of Nursing, the event on March 17 was the second workshop of its kind.

“No one leaves these workshops without a smile on their face or without feeling like their simple act of love will make the world a better place. I love being able to witness that in their countenances,” said Holly Christensen, BYU alumna and co-founder of the Magic Yarn Project.


The Magic Yarn Project began in 2015 when Christensen crafted a yarn Rapunzel wig for her friend’s daughter, who had lost much of her hair in chemotherapy. Now three years later, the Magic Yarn Project has made the world a better place for over 7,000 children battling cancer in 36 countries. Each of these children has received a hand-made princess or pirate yarn wig at no cost. Wigs take approximately two hours to make and are crafted by volunteers at wig workshops.


Wig workshop volunteers pose with 301 completed wigs after the service event on March 17, 2018.

“It was a huge success!” Christensen said of this year’s BYU wig workshop. While most of the wigs will be distributed by BYU nursing students during their clinicals at Primary Children’s Hospital, Ryver had the chance to choose her wig in person. She wore an Anna wig and a wide smile as her mother pushed her around the Wilkinson Ballroom in a stroller. Not even three years old, Ryver was diagnosed with leukemia only a few months ago.

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“It was heart-warming to see Princess Ryver light up when she got her wig, and equally rewarding to see her mother get excited about picking out a wig with her. Ryver’s presence definitely made the workshop memorable and was a sweet reminder that this is what the project is all about,” said Christensen. For her, the experience of personally gifting a wig was rare; most wigs are mailed to individuals and cancer centers around the world.


The wig workshop at BYU brought the community together. Among the hundreds of volunteers knotting, braiding and decorating yarn hairpieces was 17-year-old Connor Munden. His grandmother’s involvement in the Magic Yarn Project Utah Chapter inspired an Eagle Scout Service Project to prepare for BYU’s workshop. Along with family and friends, Connor cut most of the yarn—thousands of feet of it—that eventually became 301 completed wigs.


In addition, students from BYU and members of the Magic Yarn Project Utah Chapter volunteered to teach those coming to the workshop how to make various wigs. “This event helped me realize there are lots of different ways to serve those with cancer,” said Maggie Gunn, a BYU nursing student and wig instructor at the workshop, “We may not be able to cure their cancer, but we can provide comfort and love which, in my opinion, is just as important as the chemo.”

“With the Magic Yarn Project, there’s something for everyone,” concluded BYU nursing student Jessica Small, “Whether bedazzling flowers or tying yarn to a wig, people of all ages can come together and make a difference in the lives of so many children.”

Next year’s BYU wig workshop will take place on March 16, 2019. To learn more about the Magic Yarn Project, visit

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“Everyone knows someone who has struggled with cancer: a family member, friend, patient or ward member. While we can’t cure someone’s cancer, we can help, comfort and love them. Making these wigs is a way to show child cancer patients that they’re loved,” said Jane Goodfellow, a fourth-semester BYU nursing student. Goodfellow (right) is pictured with fellow nursing student Leah Guerrero (left). The two volunteered as instructors at the wig workshop.



Compassionate Individuals Receive College DAISY Awards

The College of Nursing recently partnered with the DAISY Foundation to recognize assistant teaching professor Gaye Ray and nursing student McKenzie Weir for their extraordinary compassion.

The DAISY Foundation is a non-profit organization, established in 1999, by the family of Patrick Barnes. Barnes died from complications of the auto-immune disease, Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura (or ITP,) at the age of 33. Like many families that experience loss, the Barnes family decided to do something positive to honor him. After his death, the Barnes family founded DAISY—an acronym for Diseases Attacking the Immune System—to thank nurses who cared for Barnes and recognize exceptional nurses around the world.

DAISY Faculty Award

Assistant teaching professor Gaye Ray received the DAISY Faculty Award with nominations from four different individuals. Their reasons for why she is deserving echo her compassionate personality.

“Nothing feels better than when professor Ray is proud of you. The day is a little brighter after talking with her,” says McKenna, a BYU nursing student. Other students had similar things to say about Ray.

Annie shared, “Gaye values the unique gifts of others by helping us see that we all have different gifts and talents and can use them to help our careers in the future.”

Madeline added, “Gaye is the reason why I stayed with nursing when I was certain I would quit. Her compassion, intellect and zeal for nursing inspired me to want a life like hers, a life where she creates happiness and spreads it wherever she goes. Not only is she brilliant, but she doesn’t act like she is better than anyone else. She sincerely cares about each person and works so hard to make the world better.”

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“First and foremost, Gaye loves Jesus Christ,” said Maggie, “It’s because of that love that she is so ready and able to love those around her. She pushes all of her students to be the best they can in a kind and compassionate way.”

DAISY In Training Award

In addition to honoring a nursing faculty member, the College honored nursing student McKenzie Weir with the DAISY In Training Award. Weir believes in looking out for individuals who need a friend or simply a kind smile to make it through the day. She feels that taking time to remember someone’s name is important and follows this practice with peers, classmates and people she meets at church.

Kayla Smith, the nursing student who nominated Weir, wrote, “Kenzie is always the one in class to keep things in perspective and reminds those that struggle that they are cut out to be nurses. She follows up on personal situations and offers support to her peers—perhaps that poster child for seeking and giving help!”

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The College of Nursing congratulates Gaye Ray and McKenzie Weir for this significant recognition.

Future DAISY Awards

Each January and September, the College of Nursing asks for peer nominations for DAISY Faculty and DAISY In Training Awards (watch for details). The call for submissions is your opportunity to nominate a nursing professor or student that demonstrates compassion and personifies “the Healer’s art.” Recipients will be awarded at our Scholarly Works and Contribution to the Discipline Conference in October and at the BYU College of Nursing Professionalism Conference next February.

BYU Nursing Student Kimi Stevenson Learns the Cost of Empathy

By Calvin Petersen

As a nurse in good health, helping others is effortless. But when a nurse is at their worst health ever, helping others becomes remarkable. Kimi Stevenson, a BYU nursing student, woke up one night in the most pain of her life.

She described it as if somebody was repeatedly stabbing a knife in her back. Though only 18 at the time, Kimi’s arthritis had worsened over the course of a few weeks. She now found herself on the floor, unable to move. Kimi yelled to her roommate Halie, who burst into the dark bedroom, fumbled for the switch and gasped when the light revealed Kimi’s contorted form on the floor. “Kimi! Are you OK?” she yelled. Kimi asked Halie to get her medicine on the other side of the room. As the girl moved to retrieve the pills, Kimi heard a loud thump, and then silence.

“Halie?” she called. No answer. “Halie, are you okay?” Again, no answer. Kimi screamed Halie’s name until another roommate came in and found the two girls on the floor.

“I thought, ‘I’m a lifeguard, I’m in nursing school and when I get an actual opportunity to help, I’m stuck on the floor and can’t even get up,’” Kimi recalls, “but I could coach my roommate through it. I said, ‘OK, tap her shoulder. Did she wake up? Did she do anything? Is she breathing?’ She was breathing and had a heartbeat, but wasn’t waking up. So I called 9-1-1.”

Kimi explained the situation to the dispatcher, who asked Kimi if she would go to her friend and check on her. “Actually I can’t, I’m kind of stuck on the ground,” she said. “Well who’s the ambulance for, you or your friend?” the dispatcher asked.

Halie woke up as the paramedics arrived. They checked her vitals and determined she would be fine; a year later she was diagnosed with epilepsy. As for Kimi, her brother came just after the paramedics to take her to the ER. Kimi calls that paramedic visit “a blessing in disguise” because without the paramedics’ chair, specially designed to take patients down stairs, Kimi might not have made it to her brother’s car.

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Juvenile Arthritis and an Aspiring Nurse

At eight years old, Kimi was diagnosed with juvenile reactive arthritis, an autoimmune disease. It started out with a limp. A week later, Kimi’s fingers were so swollen that she couldn’t close her hands. She started to crawl around the house because walking was unbearable. After taking almost a dozen pills a day for over a month, Kimi’s doctors finally found the right treatment. “Overnight I was totally better,” she says.

Throughout the process of finding a treatment, and the monthly visits to get her blood drawn for two years afterwards, Kimi became deeply impressed with the people who cared for her. “I knew I wanted to do something in the medical field because people had been so kind to me,” she says.

Kimi proceeded to ask everyone at each of her doctor appointments if they thought she should be a PA or an NP. While most smiled at the cute eight-year-old Kimi and said, “Whatever you want to be, sweetie,” one physician assistant actually told her why she should be an NP.

“After that, I thought nursing was the right way to go. You get more hands-on experience and it’s more compassionate. By the time I was maybe 14, I knew I wanted to do nursing at BYU,” Kimi says.

Aside from the occasional lower back and leg pains of sciatica, Kimi’s personal health challenges appeared to be over. Her dreams of becoming a nurse and serving an LDS mission were on track. Or so she thought.

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Kimi practices using a stethoscope on her father at age ten.

Good News and Bad News

Kimi received her mission call to the Brazil Manaus Mission in August 2015 during her first semester at BYU’s College of Nursing. As she was preparing for her mission, the sciatica returned; only this time it was much worse.

One morning in October, Kimi began her usual three-block trek to BYU campus at 8:30 to make her 9 o’clock class. When the easy walk turned into a painful shuffle that took more than 45 minutes, she knew something was seriously wrong. That day ended with her infamous visit to the ER and her passed-out roommate.

One doctor thought her pain came from a herniated disc and gave Kimi a cortisone shot. Then she woke up to discover her knee was the size of a cantaloupe. It finally dawned on her, “This isn’t sciatica or a disc; this is arthritis!” Yet even with an expedited visit to one of Utah’s two rheumatologists, Kimi’s recovery wasn’t overnight like it was when she was eight.

She was officially diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis, an inflammatory arthritis affecting the spine and joints. Kimi moved in with her grandma and spent the next six weeks in a wheelchair. The worst news of all came after Thanksgiving.

“I’m so sorry, but you can’t go on your mission,” Kimi’s doctor told her. Kimi could re-submit her mission papers if she’d improved by March, but because of her medical needs, Brazil was out of the question.


Kimi’s friends often pushed her to class while she was in a wheelchair. One even sprinted her through the finish line of a Halloween-themed 5K run so Kimi could get extra credit for her pathophysiology class.

Delayed Plans and $70,000 in Shots

By February, Kimi no longer needed the wheelchair. Her pain was finally under control, thanks to her weekly shot. Kimi’s stake president called the Missionary Department to ask about the process for resubmitting her mission papers. That phone call produced an unexpected result.

On a quiet afternoon in BYU’s library, Kimi’s phone buzzed. It was her mom. “Kimi, don’t freak out, but look at your online mission portal. You have a new mission call!” The reassignment was to the Brazil São Paulo Interlagos Mission.

Without letting Dr. Call know about her new mission assignment, Kimi went in for a physical on March 7. “Well Kimi, you’re doing really well. I think we can talk about putting your papers back in,” he said. “Oh, about that,” Kimi said with a smile, “I got a new mission call a few weeks ago, and it’s still to Brazil.”

Dr. Call told Kimi she could go to Brazil only if she got a blood test every six months and took enough shots for every week of her mission in Brazil. Since the shots, valued at almost $1,000 each, are ruined when they reach room temperature, she’d have to find a way to get them to Brazil cold.

Weeks later, Kimi found herself flying to Brazil with $70,000 in shots on her lap in a special cooler. After her entry interview, her new mission president asked, “Is there anything I should know about?” Kimi gently placed the cooler on his desk and said, “Just one thing: can I put these in your fridge?”

Kimi still takes her weekly shot and likely will for the rest of her life. Now in her third semester of BYU’s nursing program, Kimi Stevenson has already proved she will make a remarkably empathetic nurse.

Thinking back on her journey, Kimi says, “The whole experience taught me not to take things for granted. It taught me to look at other people who are going through problems, when I’m at the hospital or even when I was on my mission, and to know what they’re feeling, and how hard that is.”

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“I’m grateful to the nursing program for all the help I received during those difficult months,” says Kimi. Gaye Ray, one of her nursing professors, made an extra effort to take care of Kimi while she underwent treatment.

BYU College of Nursing Changing Undergraduate Application Process and Requirements

In order to promote a more inclusive approach to undergraduate nursing student selection, the BYU College of Nursing will be implementing changes in the application process.

“The idea is to get a more holistic view of the students and to have a more holistic applications and admissions process,” says Cara Wiley, the nursing advisement center supervisor. “That way we’re taking into consideration some of the other aspects of students and not just GPA.”

“We don’t believe that the characteristics of being a good nurse are exclusively GPA and ACT scores,” says College of Nursing associate dean Dr. Katreena Merrill.

These changes will take effect for students applying for the winter 2019 semester. Listed below in bold are the main changes and what they mean.

1) Students must have completed all prerequisite classes before applying to the program—midterm grades will not be accepted.

Previously, students could apply to the program while still enrolled in prerequisite courses and simply give their midterm grades for the prerequisites. Now students will need to have finished all pre-reqs before submitting their application.

“As usual, we will admit twice a year,” Merrill says. “The application for fall semester will end in May each year so that students taking prerequisites can finish those up in their winter semester and apply in May for fall. Applications for entering the nursing program in the winter semester will close in late August so that students applying to go to the nursing program in the winter will be able to finish classes in spring and summer.”

2) Students with over 75 BYU credits or 100 overall credits will no longer be able to apply.

This falls in line with official BYU policy, which says that students cannot change majors after earning 75 BYU credits (excluding AP or language exam credits). The idea is that more spots for students will be created while students with lots of credits will be able to use the more efficient path of a nursing accelerated course. Overall, this should help reduce the nursing shortage.

“If a student is already in college for three or four years before they even figure out they want to do nursing, the fastest way for them and the most financially beneficial way for them is to then do an accelerated nursing program [outside of BYU],” Wiley says.

3) While grades are still an important consideration factor, other variables such as service and possibly an online behavioral assessment will play an increased role in the selection process.

Now before you go slacking off in your next class after reading this, don’t think that GPA and ACT/SAT scores don’t matter anymore—there is still going to be strong weighting towards these factors. However, now the process is going to put more emphasis on other factors like leadership, community service, healthcare experience (see next section), and possibly an online behavioral assessment.

4) Students need healthcare experience, either as a volunteer or employee.

Students should have some time in a healthcare environment under their belts if they want a competitive application. Healthcare does not mean just in hospitals—it can include nursing homes, therapy centers, or other places where medical professionals work.

“We want to see that they really want to be in the healthcare profession and that they’re doing things for that,” Wiley says. “If you have six months or more [of experience], then you’d be in a good place.”

5) There is no longer an essay in the application.

All students weary of application-caused tendonitis can rest easy—with a catch. While there is no essay, there are small writing portions of the application where students talk about themselves, their goals, and their qualifications.

6) The application process is now two-tiered, a process that seeks to ensure that well-rounded applicants progress between the tiers.

  1. a) Tier 1 will include grades, ACT scores, letters of recommendation, service, leadership, healthcare experience, the writing portions of the application, and possibly an online behavioral assessment.
  2. b) If students pass Tier 1, they proceed to Tier 2, which is an interview at the College. Students must attend in person barring circumstances such as being on a mission or living far out of state—in these cases, a Skype/telephone interview will be arranged.

When do these changes come into effect?

“This will take effect Fall 2018 which means that the students who are first affected by this are those who are looking to apply for the Winter 2019 application,” Wiley says.

More changes and adjustments may be announced as details and logistics of the new application process are finalized.

What does this all mean?

Wiley explains that these changes will help change the College’s demographics and promote a more comprehensive student population.

“We’re hoping for more well-rounded students,” she says. “That could mean that you don’t have a 3.9 and still make it in.”

“While we know that the nursing program is hard and we want students to be successful, we also realize that nursing is a caring profession and GPA and ACT don’t necessarily measure caring and empathy,” Merrill says. “We want to make sure that our nursing students are yes, smart, but we also want to make sure that they have empathy and are able to care for people. That is why we are called the Healer’s Art, because we care and we take care of people as the Savior would.”