Category Archives: Experiential Learning

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!

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!

 

Walking Into a “New Life”

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Dustin (far right) loves doing all she can to serve her patients! Photo courtesy of Dustin.

By Corbin Smith

The BYU College of Nursing has an international reach that has no limitations. Faculty and students travel across the world to places such as Taiwan, India and Tonga to serve locals with their knowledge of the Healer’s art. Assistant teaching professor Tracy Dustin is one of those faculty members who does not shy away from going abroad to share her nursing talents. That is why each September she goes to El Salvador with an organization called Operation Walk Utah.

Operation Walk Utah’s motto is “Restoring mobility to those in need… One joint at a time.” As their motto reflects, their ultimate goal is to give El Salvadorians a “new life” through hip and joint replacements. Since their beginning in 2007, Operation Walk Utah has created a strong reputation of providing successful joint replacements. They work out of the Hospital Nacional San Rafael in Santa Tecla, El Salvador, normally staying for a week each year. They complete about 70 replacements each trip.

For Dustin, she volunteers each year as a pre-op nurse. She gives patients medications and helps prepare them for their own life-changing operation. She also works in the recovery room and is able to see the impact of their work. “People line up and wait for hours for their chance for an operation. After the operation, it is humbling to see them leave with a new hope in their life.”

Over the years, while Dustin has seen so many amazing things happen within the organization, she is also quick to recognize that the impact on each individual is much more important. “The daily pain they suffer is so debilitating mentally,” Dustin explains, “They are so strong. They are so amazing.”

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Dustin is constantly amazed by the strength of her patients. Photo courtesy of Dustin.

Joint problems can be painful and decrease mobility to the point where you can’t work. In places like El Salvador, their livelihood depends on work, and Operation Walk Utah gives them that opportunity to go back to work. Dustin shares, “We took care of an elderly man who had both of his knees replaced at the same time. Even as a 74 year old man, he was still working but he was getting to the point where his knees didn’t allow him to work and produce for his family anymore. He was thrilled when we did this operation for him and helped him get back to work.”

However, the gratitude of the patients is what continues to inspire Dustin and Operation Walk Utah to return each year. “Most of our patients are very Christian oriented. They tell the surgeons and the nurses all the time that we are their angels from heaven,” Dustin says with a smile.

Undoubtedly, Dustin and her co-volunteers have incredibly blessed the people of El Salvador through their dedication to help those who suffer physically. They work and sacrifice things from their own personal lives, for the benefit and healing of others. That is the essence of the Healer’s art. They truly are nothing less than what their patients describe them year after year: angels.

 

If you would like to learn more about Operation Walk Utah visit their website: https://www.operationwalkutah.org/

Living a Healthy Lifestyle in Prison

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By Corbin Smith

 

Sometimes, as a society, it is easy for us to forget that prisoners truly are human beings. We often think of inmates as savages, people who deserve to suffer for the crimes they have committed. We think of people like Ted Bundy or Bonnie and Clyde and it fills our hearts and minds with disgust towards these men and women. Not only that, but we are also scared of jails, only thinking about the horrific stories and rumors we hear. We timidly gaze at the walls as we drive by on the freeway, wondering if what the media tells us is true. Never would we choose to go inside!

That’s not how associate teaching professor Dr. Peggy Anderson thinks! For many years, Anderson has worked with, loved and served those who are currently in prison. In fact, in the past Anderson served as the Relief Society President in the Utah state prison, providing both temporal and spiritual support for the prisoners.

Along with her own personal endeavors, Anderson has begun to invite students to participate in a women’s fireside inside the prison as part of their clinical practicum of the public and global health nursing course. However, this experience is much different than the clinical practicums that take you abroad.

On May 19th, Anderson, accompanied by a group of students, went to the Utah State Prison with the goal to serve, bless and teach those inside. The theme of the fireside was “Enjoying a Healthy Lifestyle.” The focus of Anderson and the students was to help the inmates understand the importance of not only physical health, but also emotional and spiritual health. Speaking of their purpose in the prison, 5th semester student Kayla Brantley says, “The prison is supposed to be a correctional facility. Correction needs to take place and they need help to make that correction for themselves, which is what we are there for.”

For that reason, students shared small devotionals with the inmates on a variety of topics. Some of the topics shared by the students included self-worth, dealing with stress, strength in Christ and even the Atonement. Brantley and her husband, Adam, also shared their talents in a unique way through a special musical number, singing “I Know My Redeemer Lives” with the ukulele!

While this fireside was beneficial for the inmates, it also was impactful for the students. Talking about his experience with the inmates, 6th semester student James Reinhardt says, “It was cool to be able to feel the Spirit in the prison and even feel the Spirit with them.” Since the fireside, Reinhardt has begun working shifts in the prison and has decided to do his capstone project there too!

It was an unforgettable experience for all who participated in the fireside. The greatest lesson the students were able to learn was that, even though in prison, each of the women attending the fireside are people who have value and worth. “It’s easy to think about what terrible things they could have done to get into prison, but as soon as you meet and see them you remember God loves them and Jesus sacrificed himself so they could be freed,” says Brantley.

 

Utah Honor Flight: A Special Chance to Give Back

 

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Students posing in Washington DC. Photo courtesy of Landon.

By Corbin Smith

“Everyone has a story, and if you’re willing to hear it, it’ll bring you to your knees.”

 

That is a quote that teaching professor Dr. Kent Blad shared with the 18 students that accompanied him on the Utah Honor Flight last May. He spoke of the 50 veterans that traveled with our nursing students to Washington DC to participate in truly a life-changing experience.

Honor Flight is a non-profit organization founded in 2005. Since then it has grown into a nationwide organization, with chapters operating in 45 states in the US. The Utah chapter was formed in 2010, and starting in 2013 Utah began doing flights regularly. According to their website in 2018, Honor Flight has served 21,189 veterans while serving 222,133 nationwide.

Honor Flight allows war veterans to visit war memorials in Washington DC. During the trip, veterans are taken to various historical and memorial sites. They get a special tour of the Arlington National Cemetery and visit Fort McHenry. The highlight of the trip, though, is the Heroes Banquet, done to spotlight and honor the services and bravery of our veterans.

Today, thanks to the efforts of Blad, BYU and Utah Honor Flight have partnered to allow nursing students to act as “guardians”, or chaperones, to the veterans who participate in this trip. This has become an opportunity students can use for their clinical practicum of the public and global health nursing course in the spring.

This all started in 2014 when Dr. Blad realized that a connection could be made from the course he teaches on caring for the veteran patient and Utah Honor Flight. Blad felt strongly that allowing students to participate in the Honor Flight would be the best learning experience for each of them. “Instead of teaching our students out of a textbook, we have the veterans live and in color, teaching the students about themselves and telling stories from their war experiences and how it affects their lives. That is what really makes a difference,” he explains.

Blad was right. The Honor Flight impacted the lives of every student that attended. Each student was able to hear understand a little bit better the life of the veteran they served, and not one of them left without a touched heart.

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Landon (middle) says the Honor Flight changed her whole attitude on life! Photo courtesy of Landon.

Fifth-semester student, Amanda Landon, was one who was greatly impacted by the Honor Flight. She says, “My experience with the Honor Flight was in a word: incredible. It was amazing for me to see the degree to which they are gracious, humble, and loving. I saw it as a once-in-a-lifetime chance to give back in a small way to those who gave so much.”

Meanwhile, the Honor Flight was particularly special for Hannah Hoffman, another 5th semester student here at the college. For Hoffman, it was special because she was able to take her grandfather to the Honor Flight. “The coolest part for me about the Honor Flight was that I developed such a strong relationship with my grandpa. I saw another side of him I had never seen,” she says.

While spending time with her grandpa during the Honor Flight, Hoffman feels like she learned two major lessons that will help her progress as a nurse. First, that nursing is more than just caring about the physical health of your patients. She says, “The reality is that there was a lot to focus on with our veterans. There are spiritual, mental and emotional needs to meet on the trip. The priority was create a feeling of understanding and one of safety, where he could feel safe to share things that maybe he wouldn’t share with someone else, and know that he would be validated and that he would receive empathy and compassion.” That is the epitome of the Healer’s art!

Second, learn the stories of your patients. Not judging your patients is an important aspect of nursing and will affect greatly if they trust you or not. Hoffman explains, “The Honor Flight helped me see how to develop a strong nurse to patient relationship. It is easy to see the stubborn side of veterans, but during the Honor Flight I was able to see who they really are.”

The Honor Flight is an impactful experience each year for all who attend, especially for Blad, the bridge between the BYU College of Nursing and Utah Honor Flight. “I am constantly amazed by these men and women,” Blad says, “They help you gain a new perspective on life every year.”

Want to learn more about the Honor Flight, in only 60 seconds? Check out this video: https://youtu.be/KPHd4Tud-1c

Professors Were Nurses First: CON Professors Help Woman in Distress

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Faculty and students were excited to visit the National Institute of Health. Photo courtesy of Hunsaker.

By Quincey Taylor

To some students, their professors are simply that, just professors. What they do not realize is that their professors are people, but more than that they are also nurses with years of experience caring for patients. Rarely do students get to observe their professors in a clinical setting.

This changed, however, for the veteran section of the clinical practicum for the public and global health nursing course this summer. When an emergency happened, students observed assistant teaching professor Stacie Hunsaker and teaching professor Dr. Kent Blad jump into action.

In May 2019, 18 students and three faculty members were in Alexandria, Virginia on a study abroad. It was Sunday, and the group was attending the local church building. This ward was used to having visitors, welcoming them with open arms.

As they were getting ready to leave, one of the students rushed to Hunsaker and told her that somebody had fallen. Since Hunsaker’s background is in emergency care, she was the perfect person to help. She was accustomed to either significant injuries or minor injuries.

When Hunsaker, Blad, and the students arrived, they saw that a lady, stepping down the ledge while exiting the church, had fallen and twisted her ankle. She was laying on the steps and there was no way for people to enter or exit the church without stepping over her. There was already a small group of people surrounding her, helping her. They had put a pillow under her head and were trying to protect her from the falling rain.

The woman was extremely emotional and was hyperventilating. Her ankle didn’t look deformed, but she was complaining of severe pain. Hunsaker let everyone know that she was an emergency nurse. She asked someone to go get some ice from the kitchen. She could tell the woman was very anxious.

Hunsaker says, “I decided that the number one priority was to talk to her, get some information and get her distracted a little bit. I started talking to her, but she was still really anxious. So I just held her hand and asked her more questions and we talked a little bit about her.” The woman thought her ankle was broken.

This accident turned into a ministering opportunity for all involved. Hunsaker strives to be an example, “even to other nurses or people of how Christ would treat other people in their times of need. He would treat them in a loving, caring way to show them that they have value.”

Hunsaker continued to ask her questions about her life, her friends, her family. This woman, whose name was Margaret, took care of her husband and children. She was the only active church member in her family.

The students observed their professors in this situation. Margaret was given a blessing right there by a ward member, which was sweet to all who witnessed. Hunsaker hopes that, “just taking an extra minute to let her know that we really did care and wanted to help her and make her feel important and valued would help her relax a little bit.”

Margaret said about the experience in a letter to the dean:

What happened to me was a series of miracles and tender mercies. It was no coincidence that your nursing students and instructors just happened to attend that particular ward at that particular time. When I rolled my ankle and heard the crackle and pop, I went into immediate shock. It was no coincidence that the two instructors were former ER nurses. They came immediately to my aid, held my hand and calmed my breathing. They were on the Lord’s mission that morning. Their tender care is something I’ll always remember.

It ended up being a wonderful missionary opportunity as well. Margaret continues:

It goes much further than that. You see, I had a dear friend who lost her father a few days before and the next day lost her mate just before I came to D.C. She’s not a member of the church. When I told her my plight, she said she now has a purpose… helping me and my husband who has Parkinson’s. I’m sharing bits and pieces of the gospel with her now.  Even my husband who isn’t a member calls this a miracle.

She truly feels that, “The Lord is personally involved in our lives and your staff and students were a part of that.”

Hunsaker is glad for this chance to be an example to her students. She says, “There are a lot of opportunities to teach students, but they often don’t get to see us actually interact with patients. I really appreciated that opportunity, because it lets them know that we’re real. We are nurses, and hopefully that gives them a good example of what they hope to aspire to be in the future.”

It would do students well to follow their professors’ examples and minister in the way the Lord would. Hunsaker finishes, “I like to think of nursing as ministering. It really is an amazing opportunity we have in our chosen career to minister every day. I get paid to minister which is pretty cool, because you can put a little extra effort in rather than just following the steps of your job. I love that because I can show patients, even difficult patients, that I’m trying to understand them and I care for them. I really believe that those interactions can show Christ’s love.”

 

Students Present Research at Global Health Conference

By Jessica Tanner

Congratulations to the students and faculty who presented at this  year’s Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH) in Chicago, March 8 – 10. Students presented poster presentations on research done in Vietnam with Professor Karen Lundberg and Professor Cheryl Corbett. Davin Brown, a sixth-semester nursing student, shares about his research and conference experience.

What was your research about?

“Our poster presentation was on [what] we did on our study abroad in Vietnam,” says Brown. Working with Black Hmong and Red Dzao tribes in northern Vietnam, they researched and taught about local health concerns.  The biggest concern is trafficking, followed by topics such as first aid, hygiene, and sanitation.

The group prepared beforehand to spend two weeks in Vietnam by doing research and preparing lessons. They then took what they had learned to local leaders. “We met with lots of these leaders of the tribal communities the things that we knew.” They taught ways to prevent human trafficking and sanitation techniques, following the teacher’s method. Brown explains, “The idea was they could disseminate that information to their families and tribes.”

What was your most memorable experience in Vietnam?

“Everything,” Brown laughs. How could he choose just one? “We trekked all throughout these valleys with these guides that we had taught these health techniques to, and we lived in their houses and we cooked with them…It was really cool. It was really pretty there, too.”

What happened at the conference?

At the three-day conference, there were several speakers and presenters. Two hours a day was dedicated to poster presentations. Researchers set up their posters in a large, open room and learned from one another. “Everyone could just walk around and ask questions about your poster [and] the research you had done,” Brown explains.

Was there other research you found interesting?

“A couple things stood out to me,” Brown says. “One of them was the keynote speaker…She talked about how corruption in healthcare has caused us to lose trillions of dollars in healthcare throughout the world…It was kind of a call to researchers to say, hey, let’s start researching and learn to combat this huge elephant in the room.” There was also a presentation on Google glasses—a special pair of lenses that allowed one surgeon in L.A. to connect to a surgeon in Africa. “The L.A. surgeon can see everything the African surgeon can see and hear and is able to walk him through certain techniques.” That is truly forward-thinking technology.

How did other attendees respond to your research?

“We were one of the few groups that was just undergraduate nursing students,” Brown explains. “For the most part, they were all PhDs or MDs. So that was pretty neat to be there; they all thought it was a neat thing that we did.”

At BYU, presenting research is not just for graduate students. The College of Nursing focuses on helping undergraduate students gain experience through research, mentored learning, and studies abroad. It helps them have opportunities like Brown’s—being able to present research and learn first-hand from other medical researchers across the nation. Students enter into the workforce better prepared to serve.