Category Archives: College of Nursing Students

Historic: Meeting Three Ghanaian Chiefs

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Traditional Ghanaian chief (center) was happy to meet with BYU nursing students as they asked for his permission to perform health screenings.

By Quincey Taylor

Ghana’s government is a unique mix of modern ideals and tribal tradition. They operate under a parliamentary democracy with a president and a separate judiciary branch. However, the constitution also protects the rights of local tribal chiefs, who demonstrate traditional authority and political influence in a changing world.

There are many different tribes in Ghana, each with their own king or chief. Passed down from father to son, or in some cases mother to daughter, this authority makes the ruler a custodian of the land traditionally owned by the tribe. They retain the culture of the tribe and continue with cultural customs.

When our 2019 Ghana section of the clinical practicum for the public and global health nursing course came to Ghana and began their work, they were asked to meet with not one of the chiefs like in past years, but three! This honor was appreciated and felt by all who participated, faculty and students alike.

Assistant teaching professor Dr. Michael Thomas said about the special experience, “We were wanting to do health screenings and we wanted to be as culturally respectful as possible, so we had the opportunity to actually ask the chief and get permission.”

One of the chiefs they met (pictured above) had an interesting story. He lived in the U.S. for years and became a professor. He was living a good life when he heard his grandfather in Ghana had passed away. He was informed that he was next in line to become king. He left behind his job as a professor and returned to Ghana to care for his people. His sacrifice and willingness to serve demonstrates the seriousness of this tradition.

BYU nursing students learned some cultural signs of respect, such as waiting to speak until they were spoken to, giving gifts, and always shaking with the right hand.

The chief responded to the group’s requests with dignity and welcoming words. Our students had the privilege to learn more about another culture and connect with others on the opposite side of the world.

Student Spotlight: Jenna Lewis

By Corbin Smith

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Photo courtesy of Lewis

As we all know, nursing takes on many faces. Nursing is special because careers can range from a variety of fields. The BYU College of Nursing values all extracurricular activities and organizations and encourages students to participate in those opportunities so that students can be exposed to a wide collection of these fields. This past summer, 4th semester student Jenna Lewis found herself involved with a relatively unknown organization among students called Camp Kesem.

Camp Kesem is an annual summer camp, driven by college students, to support youth whose parents currently deal with or have dealt with cancer. Camp Kesem had its beginnings in 2001 at Stanford University and has since expanded to over 100 chapters across the US, including one here in Utah Valley! Understanding the financial burdens taken by families whose parents are cancer patients, Camp Kesem and its volunteers fundraise year-round so camp can be free for the families each year.

During camp, the children participate in an array of activities and games, completely led by college students. The student volunteers, including Lewis, are assigned a specific age group of children, whom they assist both physically and emotionally during the week. All is done with the purpose of helping the children forget the hardships going on in their families through the companionship and empathy of the volunteers.

How Kesem Found Her

Lewis’ life-changing journey to Kesem started last year on an ordinary Wednesday night. Her roommate had been attending weekly meetings for a camp that Lewis had never heard of. That day, her roommate invited her to go with her to a meeting. Lewis reluctantly accepted her invitation to go, not ready to commit to camp because she knew how time consuming it would be.

When she arrived, the meeting was nothing like she expected it to be. “When I got there we talked about service and love, played games and sang camp songs and watched a powerful video. That is when I knew this was a special place,” says Lewis. That night, Camp Kesem found its way into her heart.

Camp!

After months of preparation and fundraising, camp finally arrived. The week’s activities included swimming, a water fight with over a thousand water balloons and even a camp-wide paint war!

Nevertheless, Lewis says the best part of camp was getting to know the campers. “They just change you,” says Lewis, “They soften your heart. They teach you about empathy and loving people unconditionally.” Their influence and example changed her perspective on nursing as well as her heart.

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She had one experience that epitomized the change she felt at Camp Kesem. One afternoon of camp a group of 6 and 7 year-old campers were running around, jumping from bench to bench trying to avoid touching the ground. One little boy slipped, fell down and scraped his knee. At the sight of a tear, without hesitation, Lewis jumped up and quickly calmed him down with a small bandage and pep talk. From that moment on, Lewis had created a strong friendship with this young camper, constantly being showered with hugs and smiles the rest of the week. “That experience helped me realize that when you are willing to help people in the way they need to be helped, they’ll open their hearts and you will see what they need.”

This lesson has continued to help Lewis as she continues in school and in her clinical rotations at the Huntsman Cancer Center. Camp Kesem helped her see first-hand the effect cancer has on families. That knowledge has helped her as she tries to serve patients in her clinicals. Her experience with Kesem gives her a perspective few of her peers possess. “Kesem has helped me understand a tiny part of their needs and worries,” says Lewis, “I even talk to some patients about Camp Kesem for their kids and it brings light to their eyes.”

Why Kesem?

Kesem’s ultimate purpose is to bring joy into the lives of the campers, but, in the end, it changes the lives of all those involved. Explaining why Kesem changed her life so dramatically she explains, “At Kesem you learn the value of being vulnerable and allowing others to be vulnerable with you. You learn to care about people other than yourself, and it’s contagious! It is incredible to go into a group of relative strangers and be loved selflessly.”

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Photo courtesy of Lewis

It is a unique opportunity to participate in a camp such as Camp Kesem. For Lewis, not only did it change her life as an individual, but it also transformed the way she thinks of nursing and how it can be applied. Without a doubt, Lewis returned from Kesem inspired and prepared for her next step in school and in life. “Until next summer,” she exclaims!

New Semester = New Students!

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New Student Orientation was a wonderful opportunity for new nursing program students to get excited about the path ahead of them.

The 2020 winter semester has begun, and with it a new cohort of nursing students are welcomed into the college ranks. Each of these new students had the opportunity to attend the New Student Orientation, acquainting them with college officials and faculty members over dinner.

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Assistant teaching professor Petr Ruda was eager to meet the students and tell them about Sigma, an organization they will have an opportunity to join later during their stay in the program.

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This semester, 63 total students will be starting the nursing program, including 58 females and five males. The average age of these students is 21, and they come from 14 states and 2 countries:

  • Canada
  • Mexico
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Nevada
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

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Ice breakers helped students become familiar with each other, a group with whom they will undoubtedly become close.

Each of these students is embarking on a journey to learn the Healer’s art that will forever change their lives. The college welcomes them, with faculty eager to stretch their abilities and help them achieve their potential.

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Yazmine Tovar, member of the SNA presidency, told her fellow students about the benefits of joining.

Students were introduced to student organizations they are encouraged to join by the clubs’ presidencies, including the Student Nurses Association and Nurses Empowering Women.

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Electra Cochran introduced students to the newly formed club: Nurses Empowering Women (NEW). They are excited to inspire a new generation of women helping women.

For students farther through the semester, it was a time to reflect on their journey and marvel at how far they’ve come. Time in the program passes fast, and each student should take this opportunity and use it to its full potential.

New Scholarship Opportunities for Graduate Students: Join GNSA Today!

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Graduate student Trissa Lyman is excited to get BYU students connected with other universities! Photo courtesy of Lyman.

By Quincey Taylor

For the first time ever, a BYU student has been selected as the Graduate Nursing Student Academy liaison. Well, what does that mean? Graduate student Trissa Lyman is excited to teach us all, and inform nursing students of further opportunities they could be taking advantage of.

The Graduate Nursing Student Academy (GNSA), “provides high value programs, services, and resources to graduate nursing students enrolled in master’s and doctoral programs affiliated with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing” (GNSA pamphlet). As the first year with their own GNSA liaison, BYU students can familiarize themselves with the program and take part in some of the help they have to offer.

One of Lyman’s favorite things about being a member is the opportunity to network. Through GNSA Connect – an online community of graduate nursing students – members can meet their peers throughout the country and join discussions, make connections, and share resources. Lyman says, “There’s just so many resources and so many cool people that are doing different things that weren’t even on my radar before.”

Additionally, members can apply for GNSA’s exclusive scholarships and other financial aid opportunities. Joining GNSA is free to all BYU graduate students and Lyman is eager to spread the good news. It is her duty to keep students informed and connected with the GNSA community and she has been emailing students encouraging them to sign up. Even though she’s new to the position, Lyman is certain it will be a worth-while experience.

Lyman explains, “Joining is good for professional development, because sometimes you just don’t know what’s available or what’s out there. I feel like the GNSA is the perfect platform to be exposed to all variety of possibilities.”

To join, register at www.aacnursing.org/GNSA/Join or talk to Lyman or professor Dr. Beth Luthy.

Lets Talk About It!

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By Corbin Smith

One of the world’s greatest tragedies has to be the normalization of mental illness and sexual assault among adults. Terms such as “depression” and “anxiety” have become ordinary to us.  We are no longer completely surprised when we see horrifying cases of rape and assault constantly in the news. The sad truth is that 1 in 5 adults will experience mental illness in their lifetime and 1 in 3 women will be victims of sexual assault during their life. There is so much work to be done to lower these numbers and make the world a happier place. This is why current second-year graduate student Shylettra Davis has dedicated her Master’s project to develop a better practice for screening those who experience mental illness or sexual assault.

Over the past few months, Davis has teamed up with associate teaching professor Dr. Leslie Miles and associate professor Dr. Julie Valentine to tackle this project. For their research, they collected data from and studied over 5000 cases of sexual assault. What they learned is that a majority of sexual assault have had a form of depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder. “Basically,” Davis says, “those who experience mental illness are more vulnerable to be victimized than someone who doesn’t experience a mental illness.”

For that reason, Davis’ project is to improve the quality of nursing care for patients that struggle with mental illness. “I want health care professionals and nurses to ask about any sexual assault history and help the patient understand that they are at risk to be targeted by predators,” Davis explains.

Davis also knows that it is easy for a victim to develop another mental illness if they are assaulted and aren’t able to deal with it and be treated professionally. Victims can easily feel isolated, lost and confused about what happened. “At the end of the day, we want patients to feel empowered,” Davis says.

Inspired by her work, Davis took her research and gave a presentation at the American Psychiatric Nurses Association in New Orleans in October. Dr. Miles accompanied Davis at the conference. While presenting their poster, they received a lot of interest from psych mental health professionals from all across the country.

Davis knows that they are off to a good start in raising awareness to this topic that sometimes isn’t discussed enough. “The biggest thing we need to do is to be aware of what is going on. When we are on high alert, we can watch out for one another and stop possible attacks.” Prevention through learning and understanding is key.

She is not alone in understanding the effects of mental illness and in having personal experience working with and being close to people who have been victims of sexual assault. Her desire to help better the lives of those victims have been her motivation for her project. “Sometimes they just need someone who recognizes what they are feeling,” Davis explains, “I can’t imagine what it would be like to walk around with that burden. I wish we could prevent everyone from having to suffer through those experiences. That’s what I try to do.” Let us all join in with Davis in making the world a better place!

 

Everyone Has Something to Give: Kendall Semones

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Semones and her husband enjoy the beach together. Photo courtesy of Semones.

By Quincey Taylor

As a nurse, sometimes it’s the small moments that confirm to you that the path you’ve chosen is the correct one. The same goes for fifth semester student Kendall Semones, who strives for balance in a sometimes-hectic student life.

Her desire to join the medical field started when she got a job as a medical assistant in high school. Semones loved interacting with patients and helping individuals despite the oftentimes precarious position they are in. However, when it came to the medical procedures it was another story. On her first day, Semones passed out due to nerves. It was then that she questioned, “Is this the direction for me?”

However, after finding the why she had decided to try it out, everything became a lot easier. She says, “As I continued through that and working to focus on the patient, it helped to have a purpose and focusing only on that purpose.” She was able to work through the nerves and now looks forward to learning new medical procedures, “as long as they’re not on me,” Semones laughs.

Since getting into the program, Semones has loved learning nursing from a unique BYU gospel perspective. She is grateful for the spirit’s influence in her experiences, and says, “I think that the gospel instills a lot of confidence into my practice because I can go in knowing that I have extra help.”

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Semones (red, fifth from the right) attributes many life lessons learned to her time in Tonga. Photo courtesy of Shelly Reed.

This past summer, Semones was able to participate in the Tonga section of the clinical practicum for the public and global health nursing course. This was a life-changing moment for her. She remembers a particularly touching experience:

“I was on the pediatric floor and there was a patient who was getting a dressing change. He was just a little, little kid and the nurse was really focused on getting the dressing done. The boy was in so much pain and he was super terrified just because they had limited resources. So my friend and I decided to go over. I went over and I held the little boy’s hand and talked to him. Of course, he was still in pain, but you could definitely see in his face a certain level of comfort after that. It was just from being there with him. Even though my role wasn’t huge, I didn’t help participate in an important step of the procedure or wound care, it was still meaningful for him. It was a very meaningful moment for myself as well.”

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Semones and other nursing students enjoy performing in the BYU Luau, showing their love for the country of Tonga. Photo courtesy of Semones.

She walked away from her international experience knowing that, “Everyone has something to give. Whether that’s a nursing student, or a nurse with limited resources, or even a young patient, everyone has something to offer… They have special gifts or skills that they can share with others.”

As she has striven to achieve balance in her life, one thing Semones believes is that people are the most important. If she could give one piece of advice to herself when she entered the major, it would be that sacrificing human relationships just to have a better grade will never be worth it. She says, “It means if my friend calls me up and they’re having a bad day and they want to talk, they’re more important than an extra hour of studying for a test.”

 

Undergraduates’ Poster Wins Third Place in International Nursing Conference

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Students Alyssa Hildt (left) and Abby Anderson celebrate a win against professionals in the forensic field! Photo courtesy of Hildt.

By Quincey Taylor

When fifth semester students Alyssa Hildt and Abby Anderson were presented with an opportunity to flex their research muscles, they didn’t hesitate. Partnering with associate teaching professor Dr. Leslie Miles and associate professor Dr. Julie Valentine, these students went on to win third place at the International Association of Forensic Nurses Conference in New Orleans for their research and poster presentation.

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The winning poster, demonstrating changes that should be made in pain management for sexual assault victims.

The idea for measuring the treatment of pain that sexual assault victims receive originated with Miles. She saw that there was a lack of research on the topic, especially considering that information regarding this topic only started being collected after assault cases in 2017. After Hildt and Anderson were recruited to help her with research, they were given the task of performing detailed research as well as creating the poster presenting their research.

After completing their poster, the duo submitted their abstract to the International Association of Forensic Nurses Conference and were accepted, along with around 25 other submissions. They presented their research alongside those of professionals, many with PhD’s, DNP’s, and years in the field. They answered questions to those at the conference with flying colors.

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Miles accompanied the students to the conference, providing assistance when needed while also leaving them the freedom to figure things out on their own. Photo provided by Hildt.

Hildt explains, “Leslie was right there in case we needed her. It was nice to be introduced into research as a student because we get so much guidance from our professors, but they also give us a lot of freedom.”

When asked what it was like working with Miles, Anderson laughs, “Oh my goodness, we love her. We call her research mama.” She loved working with the professors and says, “They’re so fun and so wise and they know what they’re doing. They’re on top of it. We learned so much from them.” Miles and Valentine have provided them with advice as the two students continue their journey into grad school.

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The research provided the students a chance to get to know their professors on a personal level. Photo courtesy of Hildt.

They plan on presenting their poster at other conferences, sharing their findings with as many nurses and students as possible. They are both passionate about defending at risk populations within their careers and look for ways to do what they can to help.

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While they were nervous at first, after beginning their presentation Hildt and Anderson knew they had been well-prepared. Photo courtesy of Hildt.

When asked about the advice they’d give to other students trying to do research with BYU professors, Anderson says, “Be persistent and persistent and persistent. Reach out to professors, reach out to people that are researching things that you’re interested in. I wasn’t sure I knew what I wanted to research, but because I was persistent and going to meetings and listening to people’s ideas it ended up being such an incredible and eye-opening experience, not only for my career but for my life.”

Hildt adds, “Professors might not have any need for research assistants at a certain time, but they might later on.  I know Julie saves emails from students who she wants to remember when she needs someone in the future.”

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Having a friend during clinicals brings a light into the whole experience. Photo courtesy of Hildt.

Through this experience, Hildt and Anderson have become very close friends. A ribbon wasn’t the only prize they walked away with, but also a long-lasting friendship built on a challenging experience. They plan on applying to the same grad school but in different departments, remaining a part of each other’s lives.

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A matching Halloween costume was essential for this dynamic duo. Photo courtesy of Hildt.