Category Archives: Current Issues

Young Scholar Award Recipient

By Mindy Longhurst

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Dr.  Julie Valentine.

Assistant professor, Dr. Julie Valentine, received the Young Scholar Award at last week’s University Conference. This award is given to three assistant or associate professors on campus who have demonstrated exceptional research in their designated field. The recipients must be within their first 10 years of working at Brigham Young University and must be nominated by their respective college.

Valentine received this award for her research related to the field of forensic nursing, specifically in sexual assault and criminal justice system response to sexual assault. She researched sexual assault kit submission rates and predicting variables throughout Utah. Valentine’s research was instrumental in policy and legislature changes, resulting in passage of Utah House Bill 200 in 2017. This change in policy now requires submission and testing for all sexual assault kits in the state of Utah. Previously it was not required to have the kits submitted and tested.

Additionally, Valentine’s studies has focused on trauma-informed training programs with law enforcement to improve the response to sexual assault victims. Valentine has served on national committees to establish best practice guidelines for sexual assault kits.

When Valentine was informed that she would be receiving the award, she said, “I was very honored and surprised! I was especially happy because it provides extra funds for my research.”

With the award, Valentine is able to receive additional funding for her research, helping to improve our understanding of sexual and interpersonal violence to reduce violence in our communities.

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BYU Grad Study Uncovers the Truth Behind E-Cigarette Labels

By Jonathan Schroeder

A recent BYU study suggests that e-cigarette users may be getting more than they paid for – twenty times as much. The study, conducted last year by BYU Nursing graduate student Barrett Raymond and associate professor Dr. Katreena Merrill, found the nicotine content of some US produced e-cigarette solutions to be significantly higher than advertised. The study was among the first of its kind to focus on prominent U.S. e-cigarette manufacturers.

“Whenever you’re doing a study, you want it to have a big impact,” Raymond said of his thesis project. “I felt like focusing this study on prominent e-cigarette manufacturers was the best way to do that.”

Raymond’s interest in the e-cigarette industry partly stems from his brother, Daniel. Daniel was a veteran of the Iraq War who returned to the States with an addiction to tobacco cigarettes. Eventually, Daniel was introduced to e-cigarettes and within two months was tobacco free. Before long, Daniel quit his job as a deputy sheriff and started a successful e-cigarette shop in Idaho Falls.

“I remember visiting my brother’s shop and watching as they made the e-cigarette solutions,” Raymond descibes. “They would use measuring cups and kitchen utensils to mix the chemicals together – poly-ethylene glycome, vegetable glycerine, a flavoring component, and a nicotine component. The nicotine would originally come in super high concentrations (1000 mg/mL) and they’d mix all the chemicals together in a five-gallon bucket; following these little recipes that were hand-written down.”

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E-Cigarette Solutions at Daniel’s Store

“It just blew my mind that this was what they were selling to consumers. The math on the recipe made sense, but they had no idea if there was any residual nicotine left on the container or utensils they were using or if there were any other factors that could impact the final product.”

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E-cigarette Solutions of 0, 3 and 18 mg/mL Concentrations

Raymond decided to conduct a study to see if the nicotine levels of e-cigarette solutions being sold actually matched what was listed on the labels. However, rather than focus on just a local cigarette shop in Idaho, Raymond focused his study on major U.S. e-cigarette manufacturers.

“I didn’t want to conduct a study that only applied to Utah or Idaho,” Raymond explains. “I wanted it to apply to the U.S., as a whole. The only way to really do that was to go online and look at major manufacturers.”

Raymond and Merrill identified the seven most popular US-based e-cigarette manufacturers using a Google search. They then purchased samples of the five most popular flavors from each manufacturer in nicotine concentrations of 0 and 18 mg/mL and tested them with the help of the BYU Chemistry and Nutrition departments to see if the nicotine content matched what was on the label. The results were pretty shocking.

“Of the thirty-five 18 mg/mL samples we tested, we found that most of them varied from 35 percent below the stated nicotine amount to 53 percent higher than the stated amount,” Raymond states. “To give you an idea, one of the manufacturers told us that the acceptable range of tolerance for nicotine levels is plus-or-minus 10 percent. Most of our findings fell outside of this range.”

However, the real surprise came in the results for the ‘nicotine-free’ samples. Of the thirty-five 0 mg/mL samples, almost all of them (91 percent) contained at least a trace amount of nicotine or more. Four samples of these samples contained more than 20 mg/mL of nicotine.

“What these results show is that adolescents who use e-cigarettes that are labeled ‘nicotine free’ could be constantly exposing themselves to small amounts of this addictive substance, without even realizing it,” Raymond adds. “What’s more is that their parents may unwillingly approve of their child’s e-cigarette use because they assume there’s no nicotine, when in reality that’s not always the case.”

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A donut-flavored “nicotine-free” vaping solution purchased from a major e-Cigarette manufacturer.

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This last finding could place Raymond’s study at the center of an ongoing national debate. A recent study by the National Institute of Health revealed that more than a third of high school seniors in the US had used an e-cigarette in 2017 – and that’s just among upperclassmen. In 2016, the US Surgeon General reported that the use of e-cigarettes among high school students had increased by 900 percent between 2011 and 2015. In light of this crisis, many officials in Congress and the Food and Drug Administration have started to push for greater oversight of the $4 billion e-cigarette industry.

Raymond says he hopes this study will prompt e-cigarette companies to step forward and make improvements, on their own—a call to action that some manufacturers have already answered. Not long after the study was published, one of the manufacturers reached out to Raymond, asking him to share the product code of the study samples so they could identify the problem.

“I appreciated that,” Raymond remarks. “This is the kind of impact you hope to have when you do a study like this.”

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Barrett Raymond presenting his findings at a Tobacco Nicotine Research Symposium in Florence, Italy

Raymond also had the opportunity to present his findings at a Tobacco Nicotine Research Symposium in Florence, Italy. There he had the chance to interact with other e-cigarette researchers from around the world.

“It was an awesome opportunity to meet with these experts and share ideas with them,” Raymond says. “I’m so grateful to Dr. Merrill and the BYU College of Nursing for making this experience possible.”

Raymond and Merrill’s study, “The Nicotine Content of a Sample of E-cigarette Liquid Manufactured in the United States” was recently published in the March/April 2018 edition of The Journal of Addiction Medicine

 

Seize Your Moment! — Taking the Initiative for Mentored Learning

By Jonathan Schroeder

Fourth-semester BYU nursing student Jeana Escobar has never been afraid to take initiative. At the age of 16, Escobar performed her first surgical operation after her dog developed a tumor on the scruff of his neck. Before her parents could stop her, Escobar went to her dad’s tool bench, found some sharp tools, and took the tumor out herself (much to her parent’s dismay and the vet’s amazement). Now years later, Escobar’s initiative has led her to a new project – a unique mentored learning opportunity developing a post-fall assessment tool for nursing homes.

It all started during a class lecture in Escobar’s second-semester gerontology course. Assistant teaching professor Dr. Blaine Winters paused to mention that he was interested in writing a paper on post-fall assessments.

“Whenever a patient falls in a medical setting, you need to do a thorough assessment to make sure they’re OK before you put them back into bed,” Escobar says. “But oftentimes in a long-term care facility, the person who finds the patient doesn’t have the proper training to conduct those assessments.”

Winters explained that in older adults, injuries often take longer to manifest than in younger patients. “He talked about how if you or I fall and bump our elbow, we’ll have a bruise almost immediately,” Escobar says. “But in older adults, bruises can take a day or more to manifest.”

It was little more than a brief tangent to the lecture. Most students probably didn’t even take notice of it. Escobar, on the other hand, was already getting excited about the possibilities.

“In high school, my teacher always talked about the importance of getting involved in your discipline during college. It really is the best time because you have time and you have plenty of opportunities to interact with professors. Really, the only thing holding you back is yourself. So when I heard Blaine mention this paper, I knew I needed to take advantage of this opportunity.”

Within a few weeks, Escobar was hired on as research assistant and began meeting with Winters and assistant teaching professor Tracy Dustin. Together, the three of them sifted through dozens of studies and academic articles for information on post-fall assessments. Much to their surprise, they were only able to find four articles written on the subject over the past two decades. The team then came to a decision that none of them had originally anticipated. Instead of writing a paper, they would develop a standardized post-fall assessment tool.

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Image Source: Pexels, 2018.

The post-fall assessment tool is a procedure that long-term care facility staff can follow to ensure that patients receive the care they need. It’s based off of advanced trauma life-support (ATLS) procedures, as well as other important post-trauma assessments. The idea is that long-term care facility staff will be able to follow this procedure to provide better care for their patients.

And while some college research opportunities may seem like busy work, Escobar says she’s enjoyed being fully involved in this project.

“Blaine and Tracy are so supportive,” Escobar explains. “They make me feel like I’m an equal member of the team. I don’t feel like it’s their project and I’m just a footnote somewhere, helping him file papers. I’m really equally involved with them and that they value my input.”

Now that the tool has been developed, Escobar, Winters, and Dustin are working with the College of Nursing Media Team to create several training videos that will explain the tool to long-term care facility personnel. The hope is that, together with the tool, these videos will help staff provide better care for their patients.

“It’s been so exciting to see this tool come together,” Escobar says. “When Blaine mentioned he wanted to write a paper in class, it was almost like a passing thought. Now we’ve created this tool and we’re getting ready to create the training videos so we can test it out. I’ve loved seeing just how if you have an idea and you just put your best effort into it, it can really come alive.”

When asked what this project meant to her BYU experience, Escobar expressed how grateful she was for the chance to be involved and contribute to the nursing discipline. She also found that this project helped her rediscover her passion for gerontology.

“I always knew I liked gerontology; I think older adults are amazing. But participating in this project helped me see that not only do I like them, but I have a passion for their well-being and improving the quality of care that they receive.”

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Image Source: Pexels, 2018.

Even though she still has a year left in the nursing program, Escobar has already started looking at graduate programs that specialize in adult critical care and gerontology.

“When opportunities are presented to you, you just need to go for it,” Escobar advises other students seeking mentored learning opportunities. “If there’s something you’re interested in, even if you’re just curious about it, you should go talk to the professor and see what you can get involved in. If they don’t have any projects, tell them something you’re interested in and more than likely they’d be happy to work with you. But you’ll never know until you ask.”

The post-fall assessment training videos are scheduled to be introduced at several long-term care facilities in the Utah Valley sometime this summer. Escobar, Winters, and Dustin plan to present their findings on the effect of the training video at the Utah Nurses Association Conference in September 2018.

Alumni responding to Crisis: When Disaster Struck, BYU Nursing Alumni Answered the Call

The two historic storms slammed into the Southeast coast of United States within mere weeks of each other. The National Weather Service called Hurricane Harvey “unprecedented.”

According to CNN, Harvey dropped an estimated 27 trillion gallons of rain over the course of six days and left a third of Houston, Texas, flooded. Irma was the strongest hurricane to hit Florida in over a decade, dumping more than 10 inches of rain and leaving nearly three-quarters of the state in the dark. Because of the impacts of these storms, the 2017 hurricane season may be the most expensive in US history.

During these hard times of destruction and uncertainty, many people stepped in to help combat the devastating effects of the hurricanes. Among them were BYU College of Nursing alumni.

The Damage

“I was shocked by the impact [of the hurricanes],” says Paige Newman Dayhuff (BS ’16), who lives in the northern Houston area of Conroe. “Along some roads, every house was gutted, and the first floor was bare to the wood framing.”

Dayhuff saw firsthand much of the damage, particularly when officials released water from an upstream dam to prevent it from bursting. Officials told the Wall Street Journal that in Houston alone, at least 136,000 buildings were flooded during Harvey’s rampage.

“The freeways, both northbound and southbound from us, were blocked by water,” she says. “In some low-lying areas, the water had risen over fifteen feet and flooded the freeway entrances and exits. My home as never flooded, but houses about five minutes from us were.”

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Kimberly Coleby Ethington (BS ’99) of Tomboll, Texas, was working at the hospital when Hurricane Harvey first hit.

“I was up on the seventh floor of a NICU/nursery unit,” Ethington says. “We listened to the rain and wind all night. I was told to pack a bag just in case the roads would not be passable to make it back home.”

Ethington did manage to get home, but her neighborhood flooded soon after, preventing her from returning to the hospital for several days. Her coworkers at the hospital fared little better.

“Basically whoever was at the hospital Saturday morning stayed until the following Tuesday or Wednesday trapped at the hospital and flooded in,” she says. “Through the tornado warnings, all babies and parents were moved to one inside hallway and triage room. One floor of the hospital that had not been in use was made available during the storm and up to two weeks after for families of workers who had no place to go. We called it Hotel Harvey.”

Oncology nurse Joanne Grant Dortch’s (AS ’84) own place of work was hard hit as well. “Our clinic lost power for a week, and I was stranded at my house in Kingwood during that time due to flooding,” she says.

The Job

One of the main ways in which BYU nursing alumni responded to the hurricanes was continuing to work as nurses.

The Wednesday following Harvey’s initial landfall, the roads were clearer, and Ethington returned to the hospital to work the night shift as a recovery nurse. The hospital had also flown in several nurses from out of state to address the massive needs that Harvey created.

“I worked several nights in a row and some days on my floor until things got back to normal over the week,” Ethington says. “We did have one baby that could have been discharged earlier, but her parents’ home had been flooded, and we weren’t going to send a preemie to a hotel, so we let the family stay a few extra days rooming in.”

“When we were able to get out onto the roads and to another clinic that wasn’t affected by Harvey, we called all of our patients to check on them, do whatever we could to help, and get them back on their chemo schedules,” says Dortch. “These patients become our friends, and we love them. We were worried about their white cells, red cells, and platelets being low, we worried about pain, infection, having nowhere to live in some cases, and so many other things.”

The Cleanup

Following Harvey, many members in wards of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rallied to assist in the cleanup. Dayhuff’s ward was one of them.

“Members of our congregation responded immediately to flooded houses, organizing groups to help with people’s homes in the area,” Dayhuff says. “We probably spent about three weeks cleaning out houses, with some people working for up to ten hours every day.”

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Tricia Bunderson (BS ’09)

She explained that members were divided into teams that would help gut homes and help the owners clean. They wore masks to prevent inhaling mold spores or other contaminants. They frequently would walk to the neighbors’ houses right after to offer assistance.

“Sheetrock, furniture, appliances, anything on the first level that had been in the water had to be discarded,” she says. “We piled the waste on the sides of the road. I was just in awe of the number of homes affected. It’s not like a fire, where one or two houses are burned, but whole neighborhoods that were destroyed. I had never been part of a natural disaster, and it was overwhelming to think of all the people affected.”

Throughout all these experiences, BYU nursing alumni proved that the Healer’s art could be practiced anywhere, be it in the hospital or a house ruined by flooding.

“For about three consecutive Sundays we had condensed church meetings, gathering for only an hour and dispersing to cleaning out homes right after,” Dayhuff says. “I loved gathering in our jeans and yellow Mormon Helping Hands shirts—there was just such a feeling of willingness to serve and anticipation for being able to help others.”

As a nurse, Dayhuff also served as a “handwashing enforcer” at the sites. She later worked sorting out deliveries of supplies at a donation zone in a converted steel manufacturing warehouse. She says she was overwhelmed by the charity and love displayed by people.

“We had truckloads of donations arriving hourly—food, hygiene supplies, bedding, so many clothes, cleaning supplies, baby products, books, toys. We had everything pouring in,” she says. “After a week of organizing, we opened the facility to those needing the supplies. The flood victims came through with shopping carts and were able to take what they needed according to the number of people in their family. Many of the people had lost everything. I felt so blessed to see their reaction when they received the donations. I wish those who had sent the donations could have seen the gratitude and humility on those people’s faces!”

“Today I got my chance to go help for a few hours,” says Tricia Terry Bunderson (BS ’09). “It was hot. It was smelly. The mold was already setting in. But I’ve never been so happy to get my hands dirty and help strangers who have lost so much.”

Bunderson’s family realizes that the amount of cleanup and rebuilding to be done is daunting, but they know that it takes one day at a time for the city to recover.

“I’ve seen grocery stores stocking shelves as fast as humanly possible, nurses working even though their own homes have been flooded, and oil workers pulling long shifts to get the plants up and running again. This teamwork really pulls at my heart. I am in awe of the hardworking, selfless, and brave people of Houston. We truly are #hoUStonstrong.”

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Sometimes circumstances prevented BYU alumni from being able to work in the cleanup, but their family members attended. The experiences taught them lessons about gratitude.

Amy Culter Benson (BS ’00) lives in Haslet, Texas, almost six hours’ drive time from where Harvey hit. Her husband, an LDS bishop, brought sixty members of their congregation to the cleanup efforts at the invitation of an Area Seventy. Benson had a nursing baby and was unable to go with the crews, but she prepared supplies, babysat kids, and packed lunches.

“They left before dawn on Saturday morning and drove five hours to Port Arthur. They tore down sheetrock, ripped out carpet, removed furniture, clothing, toys, and appliances,” Benson says. “Dave, my husband, felt the words to several LDS hymns they sang in sacrament meeting were especially powerful—‘Because I Have Been Given Much,’ ‘Come, Follow Me,’ and ‘Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel.’ It was a powerful experience to be part of a huge cleanup effort like that.”

Ethington found herself in a similar situation.

“As I worked the night shift those first few days when people started cleaning up, my teenagers during the day went out to serve,” she says “They helped families in the neighborhoods close by that we knew at first. The weeks after we joined Helping Hand crews to help muck out homes further away. It was a memorable experience for our family.”

Some of the College of Nursing’s other Helping Hands volunteers were Rachel Camille Stewart (BS ’00) and her family. Although the Stewarts’ home in Augusta, Georgia, is more than 100 miles from the coast, the Stewarts have already helped clean up after five hurricanes, sometimes spending as much as eight hours traveling to reach impacted areas. Like Benson, Stewart has usually stayed at home with the kids while her husband and two teenage sons have gone to work clearing debris and fallen trees.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma—just two weeks after Stewart’s husband was called to be a bishop—an Area Seventy asked for volunteers to serve in inundated Jacksonville, Florida, which experienced its worst flooding in almost 100 years.

Stewart says their story is not unique. For years, many of their LDS neighbors have also answered the call to help in areas across the Southeast.

“The blessings of laboring in the service of others brings such joy that the youth in our area jump at the chance to participate,” Stewart explains. “Even though the work is long and difficult, the people served are always so grateful for the cheerful service provided. Truly it is a blessing to be able to literally and figuratively lift the burdens of our brothers and sisters in need.”

Steven Tibbitts, Jonathan Schroeder, and Jeff L. Peery contributed to the research and writing of this article.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 www.themagicyarnproject.com.

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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.

 

 

Nursing the Impoverished

By Calvin Petersen

It’s no secret that poverty is a big problem. The American Council on Science and Health went so far as to call it “the world’s deadliest problem.” In fact, nearly 29,000 children under the age of five die every day because of poverty, according to UNICEF. As global leaders struggle to find solutions, nursing students at BYU have found a unique way to develop understanding and compassion for the impoverished.

An Exercise in Empathy

As they learn the Healer’s art, fourth-semester nursing students at BYU gain Christ-like empathy for their patients by participating in a poverty simulation.

First put together by Missouri Community Action, the simulation creates a realistic community of more than 20 volunteers who act as bank tellers, pawnbrokers, grocery store cashiers, school teachers, mortgage collectors and other community personnel. Eighty students populate the simulated community as they role-play the lives of low-income families. Nursing assistant teaching professor Gaye Ray and Provo Community Action executive director Karen McCandless organize the simulation each semester.

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(From left to right) Joanna Ostler, Shelby Benally, Amy Sutherland and Jane Goodfellow review their poverty simulation packet moments before the simulation begins.

“We hope that, by inviting you to walk in the shoes of the impoverished, in a small way you will understand what it’s like to have a shortage of money and an abundance of stress. We hope you will be more sensitive to the feelings of those who are living in crisis and be more thoughtful in your future careers,” Ray told students before the winter 2018 simulation.

Students participating in the simulation were randomly assigned to one of 16 different families. Each family was given a packet with information describing the family’s situation and its individual members, based on real-life stories and people.

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Students only had a few minutes to make sense of the transportation passes, identification cards, bills and money that spilled from the thick manila envelopes before the whistle blew. Then the first of four 15-minute simulated weeks began. And chaos followed.

The Boling Family Strikes Out

As students raced to their jobs, school, the bank, the grocery store and other community stations, five students, role-playing as members of the Boling family, quickly realized how stressful the poverty simulation would be.

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To begin with, because 42-year-old Ben Boling, (portrayed by Shelby Benally) recently lost his job, the family barely had enough money to purchase transportation passes so that 39-year-old Betty Boling (portrayed by Mary Erdman) could get to her full-time job.

Luckily the school bus picking up the Boling’s three children, pregnant 16-year-old Barbara (portrayed by Amy Sutherland), eight-year-old Brian (portrayed by Jane Goodfellow) and 10-year-old Bart (portrayed by Joanna Ostler), was free.

However, after only a week, Ben Boling had a stroke and was hospitalized for the remainder of the simulation. To make things even more stressful, Barbara was expelled from school and the two boys were suspended for cheating. “I didn’t cheat,” promised Brian. “Stop lying Brian,” scolded Bart. “I’m not lying, you’re a liar!” countered Brian. Betty tried to put on a brave face as her family fell apart around her.

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Ben Boling (left, portrayed by Shelby Benally) fills out an employment form during the first week of the poverty simulation.

The last three weeks of the simulation were hard. At one point, Barbara was taken by the sheriff to juvenile hall for possession of illegal drugs. Then the electricity was shut down because the Boling mother couldn’t make the payments. “This is so stressful!” said Betty, “I feel like I’m the only one taking care of things. I work full-time, so I don’t have time to buy food and pay bills, my husband is out and I have three kids.”

In the final week of the simulation, the sheriff arrived to take Betty to jail for defaulting on a bank loan. Barbara tried to cash Betty’s last check to make bail, but the bank refused to help an underage customer. Barbara looked around frantically, hoping for some aid in a hopeless situation. Then the whistle blew a final time and the simulation ended.

Although the simulation may have not been real, the stress was real and every student came to know, if just for a moment, part of what it feels like to be impoverished.

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Bankers deny Barbara Boling’s (portrayed by Amy Sutherland) request to cash her mother’s paycheck.

Determined to Do Something

The impact of the poverty simulation on the 80 BYU nursing students was evident in the discussion afterwards.

“I learned to have more patience with people because you never know what’s going on in their lives,” said Emily Santillan. “It’s easy for us as nurses to say, ‘Why aren’t you taking your meds? Why aren’t you eating your fruits and vegetables? It’s so important; why aren’t you doing these things?’ But we don’t see the whole picture. We have to be patient with them.”

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Because she discovered some of the available community resources, Emily Miller’s simulation family did better than most. “I feel like, as a nurse, I need to be more aware of resources that are available in the community to best help my patients,” she said.

Provo Community Action is one such local resource for low-income families. Executive Director Karen McCandless smiled as she listened to the nursing students’ experiences. “This last part is always really satisfying for me because it tells me that the simulation did its job,” she said.

McCandless joined Provo Community Action five years ago in part because of her personal experience in a poverty simulation. “I thought I was a compassionate person to begin with, but this poverty simulation, it literally changed my thinking. That was my hope here: that students would leave a little more compassionate than when they walked in.”

The poverty simulation taught BYU nursing students that while they may not be able to solve the “world’s deadliest problem” of poverty overnight, they can help solve the health challenges of their patients today. “Even though we can’t change their whole world with just one act, we can do something,” concluded nursing student Lauren Young.

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BYU College of Nursing professor Gaye Ray (left) and Provo Community Action Executive Director Karen McCandless (center) talk to students about the winter semester poverty simulation.

The Magic Yarn Project Returns to BYU to Make Wigs for Child Cancer Patients

By Calvin Petersen

In the largest-ever service event of its kind, BYU College of Nursing will partner with the Magic Yarn Project on March 17 to craft nearly 300 princess and pirate themed wigs for child cancer patients.

This is the second time BYU will host a wig workshop. Last year, the Wilkinson Student Center was filled with over 400 people knotting, braiding and decorating yarn hairpieces. “This is an awesome volunteer experience because you feel like what you’re doing is really helping someone,” said BYU nursing student Jessica Wright after the event. “It’s nice to wake up on a Saturday morning and do something for someone else,” agreed BYU student Sam Smith.

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Magic Yarn Project co-founder Holly Christensen works with volunteers to prepare a Moana wig.

The Magic Yarn Project began in 2015 when BYU nursing alumna Holly Christensen (BS ’06), a resident of Palmer, Alaska, discovered that her friend’s daughter had cancer. “As an oncology nurse, one of the things I learned is that I can’t do everything, but I can do something,” Christensen says. For her, that meant crafting a Rapunzel wig out of soft yarn for the girl to wear.

The magic happened when the girl put on the wig. She twirled around in her pink Rapunzel dress, smiling and forgetting the painful world of cancer she had been in. Making more wigs wasn’t a hard decision for Christensen after that. She recruited a group of friends and asked for yarn donations on social media. Their story was picked by an online magazine and quickly got attention from news media across the United States.

So far, over 6,000 wigs have been delivered, at no cost, to child cancer patients across the world, according to Christensen. These wigs have been the efforts of thousands of volunteers at wig workshops similar to the one at BYU. In addition, women at a correctional facility in Alaska crochet beanie caps that serve as the base for each wig. Christensen herself dedicates more than 40 hours a week to the project on top of two weekly shifts as a nurse and raising her family.

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During last year’s five-hour Magic Yarn Project wig workshop at BYU, over 400 people made 185 wigs.

“There have been times a little voice inside myself has said, ‘These are just wigs, this isn’t that important,’” Christensen says. “Then we get emails, and parents tell us how much it meant to them to see their daughter smile again after nothing but illness and needles and pain and hospitals. So, for these children and their families, they feel like this gives them a little bit of a normal life again, a glimpse of what it might be like when they get better.”

Christensen will travel to Provo to host the March 17 wig workshop, which will take place in BYU’s Wilkinson Student Center. Volunteers will make a variety of princess and pirate inspired wigs, which will be donated to Primary Children’s hospital and children throughout the world.

Anyone interested in participating can register for a two-hour time slot at www.eventbrite.com/e/the-magic-yarn-projects-byu-workshop-tickets-42923209475. No crocheting or advanced crafting skills are necessary.  To make a monetary donation to the Magic Yarn Project or to learn more about the nonprofit, visit www.themagicyarnproject.com.