Category Archives: College of Nursing News

Professor, Leader, Veteran, Nurse: Dr. Kent Blad

BOOM!

It was January 1991, during the Persian Gulf War. Another Iraqi Scud missile had just been knocked out of the sky by an American Patriot missile battery, a regular event given that Saddam Hussein’s forces were lobbing dozens of missiles at coalition troops. Some might have found the massive explosions unsettling—for military nurse Kent Blad, however, they ensured that he would sleep calmly that night, knowing that his odds of being hit by an Iraqi projectile were being significantly reduced.

Fast-forward twenty-six years to 2017, a year that marks two important milestones for Dr. Blad, now BYU College of Nursing associate dean. In June, it will be his 30th year as a registered nurse. Second, it is the end of his five-year term as associate dean, after which he will continue to teach as a professor. It will be one more transition in a career that has spanned decades and seen Blad serving everywhere from Provo to Saudi Arabia.

Interestingly, Blad didn’t start off studying nursing. He at first was majoring in pre-med to become an orthopedic surgeon. However, once he got married he started to have second thoughts about being a surgeon.

“When I got married, I figured I wanted to be married to this woman, not to a profession,” he says.

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Blad as a military nurse

His older brother was a military nurse, and his example helped Blad decide to enlist in the military and concurrently enroll in nursing school. He worked as a military operating room technician to pay his way, and once he had his degree he was made an officer. He served in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, where he had the harrowing experience of listening to Scud missiles streak across the sky. However, he was not injured during the war and was able to serve his country faithfully.

Blad left the military two years after the Persian Gulf War ended, and by this point, nursing was in his blood.

“The more I got into it, the more I obtained a passion for it because I soon realized that not only is it a profession, but it’s a service profession where you spend your whole life serving others,” Blad says.

For ten years, he worked at the George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salt Lake City, primarily in critical care. He then enrolled at BYU to get his master’s degree, which opened up new, unexpected doors to him. Immediately upon graduation, he was offered a job to work in the College, which he accepted.

This was in 1999, and he describes the following years as “18 wonderful years, not without their share of challenges, but certainly with many, many blessings.”

The first few were spent teaching, until 2012 when Dr. Patricia Ravert, the newly installed dean, asked him to serve as one of two associate deans in the college. He accepted, undertaking the many responsibilities that come with being an associate dean.

“There was never a time that I was able to just sit around and stare out the window,” he says. Blad’s duties include supervising the Nursing Learning Center and the advisement center, distributing faculty assignments, managing the curriculum, and attending various university meetings, all on top of continuing to teach classes and contributing to the discipline.

One of Blad’s biggest pieces of advice to both faculty and students is to find balance, stressing the fact that nothing should come before their top three priorities, namely their family, their well-being, and their religion. He had to take his own advice in this new job, constantly evaluating his life to see how he could better prioritize his time.

Despite the difficulty of managing so many different tasks, there have been numerous positive impacts that Blad can see in the past five years, mainly due to the cooperation between members of administration and the College faculty.

For one thing, the College just passed its accreditation review with no negative recommendations. The Mary Jane Rawlinson Geertsen Nursing Learning Center was completed and is now running smoothly. Blad has also had the satisfying privilege of helping distribute increased scholarship funds to deserving students and helping coordinate teacher-student mentoring. The past five years have also seen a focus on promoting professionalism and courtesy among the faculty, which Blad says has created a wonderful working environment.

“That’s the thing I’m going to miss the most as a leader is that comradery and the love that you share with your peers,” Blad says. “We have tremendously excellent faculty. In my travels around the country, it is seconded by no other faculty in the US. We have the top faculty that can be put together.”

One of Blad’s biggest contributions to the College is also one of his biggest passions: treating veterans. Blad was the one who in 2005 recommended that one of the clinical practicums for the Public and Global Health nursing course be focused on treating veterans, and since then the program has become the leading program of its kind in the United States.

“It’s pretty special,” he says. “It’s a satisfaction in my career that is matched by nothing else.”

Outside of work, Blad spends most of his time either with family or as a bishopric member in a YSA ward. He and his wife have seven children, and eleven grandchildren. Now that he will have more time, he expects them to continue old family traditions like camping, hiking, and picnicking. Blad also enjoys doing yard work and gardening.

Help Celebrate the College of Nursing’s 65th Anniversary

 

To recognize the 65th anniversary of the Brigham Young University College of Nursing—established on September 29, 1952—we’re inviting all alumni and students to help celebrate. Since the influence of our program is known worldwide, we’re wondering, “Where will the college logo travel in the next few months?”

From now until September, we are asking our alums and students to do the following:

  1. Cut out/use the college logo from the 2017 college spring magazine (page 13) or print the image from above.
  2. Bring the logo with you on your journeys—near and far—this spring and summer.
  3. Take a photo of you, your family, or your friends with the logo in front of your favorite location.
  4. Post your images on Facebook or Instagram and use the hashtag #Ynursing52.

 

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Kaylee Hunsaker at National Institute of Health in Washington, DC

If you are not planning any trips, no need to worry. Snap an image in your backyard, community, or workplace. These photos will track all of the adventures and accomplishments of our alumni and students. We’re planning a display in the fall 2017 issue of the magazine, during Homecoming, and at the Scholarly Works Conference in October. To be considered for inclusion in the fall magazine, entries must be received by June 15; otherwise, photos are due September 15.

 

You don’t do social media? Email high-resolution photos (JPG file in original size) to nursingpr@byu.edu, or mail them to BYU College of Nursing, 65th Anniversary Celebration, 572 SWKT, Provo, UT 84602.

Let’s see how far our celebration can go! Who will take the logo with them? Stay tuned.

 

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Cory Paul (BS’17) in Antarctica 

 

New group of FNP students begins program

With spring term starting this week, the BYU College of Nursing welcomed 14 new graduate students into its family nurse practitioner program. Despite the group’s differences, each showed during an opening introduction session that they were more alike, with outdoor interests ranging from mountain biking, swimming, and snow skiing.

Among the master students were five nursing alumni: Jasmine Burson (BS ’13), Kalene Mears Ethington (BS ’15), Millie Carter Harper (BS ’03), Virginia Faber Jefferies (BS ’02), and Casey Kochevar Neeley (BS ’12).

A couple of other interesting facts. There are four men, one with a military background. One of the females teaches dance lessons and will have a show at the Dejong Concert Hall next weekend, and another just completed a half-ironman competition with her mother.

All have great nursing experiences in the operating room, emergency department, med/surge, or shock trauma units and are looking forward to learning advanced nursing skills during the next two years.

Move over Lewis and Clark, There’s a New Explorer in Town

“Do you remember that time we took Grandma spelunking?”

Assistant Teaching Professor Daphne Thomas gets that question from her sons every once in a while when they want to remind her of the escapades she took them on when they were younger. Those exploits have made for good memories for the adventurous Thomas, as well as her family.

“That’s the main reason I do it,” she says. “I love those memories and I love for my kids to have those memories and experiences.”

Some of her usual pastimes include hiking, kayaking, traveling, and occasionally snowmobiling (assuming the weather is not took cold). She’s always been prone to leave her comfort zone and see what else is out there in the world, like the time she took her two young sons and their grandmother on a spur-of-the-moment road trip through California and Oregon.

“I just love life,” she says. “[I just] try to live for each moment and make each moment better.”

This attitude has helped her in her twenty-seven-year career as a nurse and a nurse educator. She only began teaching nursing a few years ago, and recently started working at BYU. She loves the College of Nursing for its focus on helping everyone become better not only as nurses, but also as people.

Thomas has been around the block when it comes to nursing positions, with some of hers including staff nurse, charge nurse, trauma coordinator, and nursing manager. Management was definitely the job that stretched her the most, she says.

“It’s definitely a perspective most people don’t get,” she says. “As you get into management, it really starts to connect a lot of pieces that you’ve just never put together.”

Wherever she works, Thomas always keeps a focus on the big picture. One of her favorite areas of study is how to retain people in the nursing profession despite burnout. Her life is an example of overcoming stress and not feeling overburdened.

“Experience is always good,” she says. “I like to grow and to learn, so I like to stretch myself a little bit.”

For Thomas, that experience includes continuing to work as an emergency nurse. She looks forward to each shift, knowing that she will be able to make someone’s day a little better.

“I guess that’s what I try to aim my life at, just making a difference, whether that’s a difference in myself or in my family or my friends or even people that I don’t know,” she says. “I love to do that.”

BYU College of Nursing Annual Essay Contest to Award $150 First Prize!

Get some extra cash for your summer kick-off by participating in the annual College of Nursing’s essay contest.

Current College of Nursing students (pre-nursing, undergraduate, and graduate) are welcome to submit an essay with the theme “Engaging in the Scholarship of the Discipline” by 4 p.m., Friday, April 21, for a chance to win $150. The second prize winner will receive $100 (checks will be issued in May 2017). Alumni from December of last year are also welcome to participate.

The essay should range between 600 to 800 words and include a title. Coursework that meets the competition’s criteria is acceptable as long as it was written during the 2016-17 school year; maintain patient privacy, HIPPA, and FERPA policies also apply. Patient or nurse mentor names may be changed, but please indicate this. Student names will be included as the author of the material. Individuals may submit more than one article, however, only one cash prize per person will be awarded.

Submit the essay to nursingpr@byu.edu. The College of Nursing will announce the winners on Tuesday, April 25 on its Facebook page.

*Submitted entries may be used in future BYU College of Nursing publications.

Refugee Supply Drive Permits Students to Show BYU Pride and Help Others

Are you a BYU nursing student looking for a way to help refugees and have some friendly competition with the University of Utah? Look no further than the Sigma Theta Tau “Supplying Homes of Refuge” drive happening now in the College of Nursing.

The drive is a contest between the four Utah chapters of the international nursing honor association (located at BYU, Weber State University, Westminster College, and the University of Utah) to gather specific supplies for refugees living in Salt Lake City. BYU students are encouraged to donate lotion, diapers, toiletries, socks, baby care products, and underwear of all sizes.

Teaching professor Sheri Palmer, who is heading the drive at BYU, says that the donations are critically needed by local refugee families.

“The biggest thing is that the refugees cannot buy all the stuff that we’re asking for,” she says, explaining that the food stamps refugees live on will often not allow them to buy basic hygiene products.

Time is running out to donate, with the final collection day being Tuesday March 28, 2017. Any donations should be brought to the purple boxes outside the break rooms on the fourth and first floors of the SWKT. Whichever chapter collects the most supplies wins a pizza party.

Fortitude and Faith: How a Rare Disease Brought a BYU Professor’s Family Together

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Assistant teaching professor Scott Summers and his family have spent the past two years working to cure Koven (center) of a rare genetic disease.

Each year, around twenty million people flock to Walt Disney World to experience the adrenaline rush that rides going at breakneck speeds provide, as well as the overall atmosphere of enjoyment that comes with an amusement park.

This winter break, however, the park will have guests who themselves have been on an emotional and spiritual roller coaster far more potent and turbulent than anything in the Magic Kingdom.

Assistant teaching professor Scott Summers and his family have spent the past two and a half years handling the severe illness of the youngest member of the family. His recent improvement, however, is offering the family the chance to adapt to a new normal where instead of frequent trips to the hospital, family outings can be to the mountains or even faraway Orlando.

Summers has been involved in nursing ever since he graduated from Idaho State University in 2007; it’s also where he met and married his wife, Kendra. Summers eventually got a masters’ degree from BYU in 2011 and returned to teach this year. His expertise is helping patients with head, neck, ear, nose, and throat surgeries.

In fact, that became critical when his son Koven, the youngest of three, became ill.

“When he was four months old, he got sick and we ended up being life flighted to Primary Children’s Hospital and spent two weeks up there,” Summers recalls. “He had surgery on this big neck infection he had. It was crazy because at that time I was the one who found the neck infection because that’s what I specialize in.”

A few months later, Koven again became ill. Summers grew more concerned; Koven’s symptoms were beginning to look like chronic granulomatous disorder (CGD), a rare genetic disease that reduces the body’s ability to fight certain types of infections.

Testing revealed that Koven did have CGD. For Summers, this was hard to bear both as a parent and as a medical professional.

“It’s good to have the background knowledge, and it’s bad to have the background knowledge,” he says. “I call it the burden of knowledge because you see and know what to expect with certain situations, outcomes, percentages, and different things like that. It’s good because then you also know what we need to be doing and what the next step is, so it’s not always that uncertainty.”

The next two years would be replete with challenges as the Summers worked to preserve Koven’s health.

“His white blood cells can’t fight certain types of infection, so certain bacterial infections and fungal infections, he’s really susceptible to,” explains Summers. That vulnerability, he says, “kept us a little more grounded within a half hour of Primary Children’s Hospital.”

Koven was in and out of the hospital frequently, which was difficult for the family to manage. Oftentimes, grandparents would have to be called in to watch the other two children while Summers and his wife were with Koven. This was challenging, but also provided unexpected blessings to the family.

“Over the past couple years, we’ve had to ask a lot of help, which we don’t love doing,” he says. “I think it’s made us stronger. It’s taught us to rely on each other, to keep other members of our family in our prayers and thoughts.”

One of the turning points for Summers was when he asked his father to give Koven a priesthood blessing.

“In the blessing he gave some special promises,” Summers says. “I then knew things were going to be OK regardless of what happened, and it changed a lot of my thinking going forward.”

That hope was important as the Summers looked for ways to cure Koven.

“Before we knew that he could do a transplant, because we didn’t know if we would have an adequate donor, [we kept him] on medication to try and manage the number of infections, but the medication was particularly hard on him, and it limited what we were able to do as a family,” Summers says. “One medication made him so sensitive to the sun that he would break out in blisters all over his skin, so we didn’t spend a lot of time outside that summer.”

Faith helped sustain the family during these difficult times. Scott was grateful for his knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which served as a strong foundation in trials.

“It’s been a journey, but on the other hand it’s been really nice having my knowledge even outside of medicine to fall back on, my knowledge of the gospel and knowing that regardless of what comes out of it, it’s going to strengthen our family and allow us to continue to progress with Heavenly Father’s plan,” he says. “Obviously we hoped that with time everything will go back to normal and we would have a happy, healthy little boy, and this would just be a memory. I guess it was more of a hopeful optimism, but as things progressed, I began to more easily see blessings in our lives that maybe we wouldn’t have noticed before or had not fully appreciated, which just further strengthened my belief in our Heavenly Father’s love for our little family.”

Over time, a new light appeared on the horizon. One of the techniques for curing CGD that has been developed in recent years is doing bone marrow transplants from suitable donors. This requires specific donor qualities, which the Summers found out their six-year-old daughter had. Preparation quickly began for the procedure, but even that entailed immense struggles since Koven’s immune system had to be essentially annihilated to prevent his body from rejecting the new marrow.

“After we got the okay for transplant, we had to wait until [Koven] was healthy enough to undergo the transplant,” Summers says. “At the time he had a nasty infection in his bone, and we were still waiting for the fungal infection in his lung to clear up enough so that we could kill his somewhat functioning immune system with chemotherapy in preparation for the transplant.”

Following this difficult process, the transplant was completed at the beginning of this year. Koven spent a month in the hospital, following which began the waiting period at home to see if his body would reject the transplant. It was fraught with risks of more infection, but as Summers says, “We were back together as a family, which gave us a new kind of hope.”

Luckily for the family, the transplant appears to be working.

“Months have gone by since that time, his hair has grown back to normal,” Summers says. “He still has a risk for other things down the road with having a bone marrow transplant, but it now gives him bone marrow that can fight those infections. Just like any kid he can get a runny nose and whatnot, but now his body can actually respond and fight that bacteria that’s causing it and hopefully be a happy and healthy little kid.”

The ultimate evidence of Koven’s health rebound is the family vacation to Orlando this Christmas. “That’s our big hurrah to take our kid to the germiest place on earth and let his immune system be challenged and excitingly not have to worry about it,” Summers says.

Summers has come to understand the importance of patience, empathy, and hope during trials, and is now excited for his family to enter a new stage of life.

“I just explain the process like walking through the forest. You have a map, so you know where you need to go, but the trail is a little different for everyone,” he says. “There can be trees that have fallen down, but for us, there is now light at the edge of the forest and just a few more trees on the path.”