Category Archives: Good to know

Airplanes and Game-Shows. Welcome to BYU Denise Cummins!

DeniseBy Corbin Smith

Listen up all you travel-junkies and game show fanatics! New faculty member Denise Cummins (AS ’86) is someone you have to meet!

For the inner adventurer in you, you can go ask Cummins about the more than 10 countries that she has visited in her lifetime! She has gone places like England (where she was born), Belgium, Morocco, the Mediterranean and more! Wherever she goes she loves to kayak and visit historical sites! Go ask her about the tons of experiences she has had all over the world!

For you lovers of games such as Jeopardy and The Price is Right, along with dreamers to one day compete on a program like that, Cummins can be your guide! Years ago, while living in Los Angeles as a newlywed, she competed on three game shows! She played Million Dollar Chance of a Lifetime, Secret Password and The Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour and racked up some sweet prizes! For those who want to follow in her footsteps, she is the one to talk too!

Cummins life, however, is more than traveling to exotic places and playing game shows. “It is amazing to make a difference in someone’s life. You truly can make a big impact through being a loving and caring nurse,” she says. Cummins loves being able to serve people and make their lives happier each day!

This semester Cummins is teaching Nursing 320, 351 and 352. She is so excited to work with BYU students and faculty this year!

 

To learn more about Cummins, read her official bio below!

 

When it comes to gaining an education, Denise Cummins (AS ’83) is not hesitant about traveling afar. She came from England after joining the Church to attend BYU, where she earned her first nursing degree. She has lived in California since graduating but has earned additional degrees and credentials from BYU–Idaho, Frontier Nursing University in Kentucky, the University of Sheffield in England and, most recently, from the University of Utah, where she completed a doctoral program in nursing.

The traveling continues! Within weeks of starting her BYU position, she and another nursing professor took a group of nursing students to India, working with a Hindu organization and caring for families affected by leprosy as part of the clinical practicum for the public and global health nursing course.

Cummins’s professional experience is just as unique. After becoming a registered nurse, she cared for women and babies in a variety of settings, including small community hospitals, a large university teaching hospital, a midwife clinic, and even a mobile health van. Later, after becoming a nurse practitioner, she supervised a hospital-based maternal-fetal medicine clinic, serving women with high-risk pregnancies, and coordinated its perinatal research program. Most recently, Cummins was the director of quality and regulatory compliance for a rural hospital district, while concurrently teaching an online nursing research class for BYU–Idaho.

She considers her undergraduate education at BYU to be one of the great privileges of her life. It prepared her not only for a career in nursing but to live a life and raise a family centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ. As a new faculty member, she is excited and honored to help students prepare for these experiences in their own lives. After entering BYU to learn, then going forth to serve, she is pleased to return to teach. Cummins currently instructs the nursing care of women and newborns course and clinical labs, and scholarly inquiry in nursing.

When she is not in the hospital or teaching, you will find her traveling between California and Utah, where much of her family still resides.

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Welcoming New Faculty Member Brandon Thatcher

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Realizing that teaching seminary may not pay the bills but wanting to use spirituality and helping others to make a difference in a career, assistant teaching professor Brandon Thatcher earned a bachelor of art in Spanish from Utah State University as a prerequisite for a fast track nursing program. He then earned a bachelor’s degree in 2009 and a master’s degree in 2013—both in nursing from the University of Utah.

Before becoming a board-certified psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP), he worked for five years as the charge nurse for both the child and adolescent inpatient units at the University Neuropsychiatric Institute in Salt Lake City. As a PMHNP, he worked in various settings including a psychiatric crisis center, several substance use disorder treatment centers, therapeutic boarding schools, and at the BYU Student Health Center on an outpatient basis.

Thatcher has also been an adjunct clinical instructor for the BYU College of Nursing since 2014. He recently teamed up with professor emerita Dr. Barbara Heise for a publication on child suicide screening methods.

He currently teaches the stress management course, preview to nursing course, and the psych/mental health nursing class and clinical. During the 2019 spring term, he accompanied another professor and ten nursing students in Ghana, Africa, as part of the clinical practicum for the public and global health nursing course.

Employment at the university lets him include a spiritual side to healthcare when teaching students. He values the religious aspects that can be added to mental health discussion and healing. As a practitioner with the student health center, he saw the Lord’s hand in many things. “When a student required a few or many additional minutes for a session, the subsequent time slots would always cancel, allowing the time we needed. This happened in every instance I needed more time with my patients for three and a half years,” he shares.

He and his wife, Danina, have three children. He enjoys family time most of all, playing guitar, wrestling kids (his own), watercolor painting, and spending time outdoors.

Brad Walker: Helping All, From Coal Miners to Railroad Workers

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With a long and fruitful career, the College of Nursing is grateful for alumni like Brad Walker. Photo courtesy of Bingham Memorial Hospital.

By Quincey Taylor

Pioneers in the nursing field make leaps in the industry every day. We rely on their innovative research and technological developments to help nursing progress. There are also nurses that make social steps forward in the nursing world. One of those people is BYU alum Brad Walker (BS ’75), who joined the nursing community in a time period when male RNs made up only 2.7% of the working force.

When he came to BYU, Walker was one of the first male nursing students ever in the BYU nursing program. He is grateful for his experience at BYU, saying, “I feel that my education and training at BYU directed me and had me ready to begin a lifelong career. As I have practiced as a family nurse practitioner, I have made friends from every walk of life.”

He remembers once during his senior year, he was challenged to “go outside of nursing” and do something new or adventurous. He reflects on the experience, “So I went out to the skydiving school and made 2 jumps out of perfectly good airplanes.  I absolutely loved it.  I have never done it since.” He is grateful for the ways the college stretched and challenged him in all areas of life.

Brad went to college with the aspirations of becoming an electrical engineer, but his career path took a significant turn because of his mother. After the birth of Brad’s first child, she suggested a part-time job at the hospital to help pay for the bill. He started in housekeeping, and worked part time in the operating room. This experience peaked his interest in medicine and later that year, he was accepted into the RN program.

Walker, who is a recent retiree, had a long and fulfilling career after BYU. His first work experience was in East Carbon, Utah. He worked out of Utah Valley Hospital under the guidance of Dr. Keith Hooker. He was responsible for caring for the workers in two coal mines at the East Carbon Clinic. He routinely flew in Hooker’s private plane to rural clinicals. Walker remembers, “One day we were trying to take off from a plateau near Castledale, Utah.  As we started to take off, a gust of wind caught us and slammed the plane into the ground.  We walked away without any injuries of any kind.” He learned a lot with that experience, delving into the medical world as a nurse practitioner for the first time.

Walker and his family then moved to the Pocatello, Idaho area, where he practiced as a nurse practitioner for the past 41 years. His NP license number in the state of Idaho is only 85, illustrating how few NPs there were in Idaho at that time. He worked for several orthopedic surgeons, as well as worked in the ER for almost 20 years. He was one of the original Lifeflight crew members in his community. He not only worked with coal miners in his career, but even helped many railroad workers as well. He then worked at the UP Railroad clinic for 30 years.

He loved working with that population, and says, “I served the needs of many railroaders over the years. These men and women are like family to me. I am in the process of telling my patients goodbye. This is not easy. It’s been a great life and wonderful career starting with my time in the College of Nursing at BYU.”

Lastly, Walker worked for Bingham Memorial Hospital and had his own practice in Pocatello. He also worked for the past 20 years in urgent care clinics around the area. “One thing for sure,” Walker laughs, “I was never without a job or two.” Over the years, he developed a particular skill for suturing, one that served him well.

For a time, Walker would come down to BYU and help teach nurse practitioner students orthopedics and how to apply different casts and splints.  He worked in close connection with Vicki Anderson.  She also graduated with his class as a nurse practitioner in 1975.

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Walker and his wife are excited for their new adventure. Photo courtesy of Walker. 

On April 1st, Walker and his wife left for their new adventure, serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He is so grateful for his journey that started at BYU, saying, “BYU and the College of Nursing set me on a path for success and happiness.”

Walker looks back on his time at BYU with fondness, and continues to support the college. He loves to watch BYU sports and had season football tickets for almost 10 years. He concludes, “The Lord has taken care of myself, my wife and my family through a career as a nurse practitioner.  I have always had work, and worked at something that I loved.  Especially in taking care of many patients.  I love taking care of patients and being able to see them improve their health.” None of that would have been possible without BYU.

The Valor Award: Serving Our Heroes

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Julie Minson is honored to receive this year’s Valor Award for future nurse practitioners. Photo courtesy of Minson.

By Quincey Taylor

Serving others that have given so much in honor of this country is a privilege that only select nurses get to enjoy. Some of these nurses are alumna Emily Lance Santillan (’19) and current nursing graduate student Julie Minson, both of whom received the Valor Award during their respective times in the nursing program, the first during her bachelor’s and the second during her time as a graduate student.

The Valor Award is a great opportunity for students that want to learn skills in a specialized environment. Given to students at differing times in their education, the Valor Award is modified to best help recipients at their current point of training. Undergraduate students have the opportunity to work at the George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, mimicking a paid internship, while graduate students can use the hours gained at the VA towards becoming a nurse practitioner.

Surrounded by experienced nurses and guided by their preceptors, Santillan and Minson readily cared for a population that is in need of their love and attention.

Emily’s Experience

The Nursing VA Learning Opportunity Residency (VALOR) Program is for outstanding students who have completed their junior year of an accredited baccalaureate nursing program and may be interested in a nursing career in the Department of Veterans Affairs. Under the guidance of a VA registered nurse preceptor, VALOR students have opportunities for clinical practice and competencies in a nursing specialty area. The student will also complete an independent, problem-focused, clinical project.

Santillan was so grateful for the experience she had at the VA. She says, “It was a huge growing and learning experience. My confidence as a nurse just skyrocketed. From the beginning to the end, I feel like I was ready to graduate and be a nurse, like the next day if I could.”

She felt that this chance to learn was different than other opportunities that she’d had. She continues, “Sometimes during clinical, it gets you close, but not quite to that point where you are on your own. At VA, I felt like I could do most things independently for the whole day. I could do charting, meds, interventions, everything. That was invaluable for me to have that confidence.”

Santillan was inspired to apply for the Valor Award after doing clinical at the VA with assistant professor Dr. Julie Valentine during her third semester. She loved the experience and decided to apply that next summer. The application process for her was almost like any other job interview, and she was thrilled when she was selected.

That summer, she worked almost full time in order to achieve 400 working hours by the start of fall semester. If she wanted to return to work there now after graduation, it would be a relatively simple process.

Santillan is grateful for her time at BYU and says, “It stretched me a lot and challenged me a lot, but was very rewarding. I feel like if you’re comfortable, you’re not growing. You’ve got to get out of your comfort zone and grow… I know I’m a completely different person. I know I’ve improved so much since when I started at BYU.”

Since completion of her Bachelor’s degree, Santillan has had a baby, and hopes to return to nursing in the fall.

Julie’s Experience

The VA funded learning opportunity for nurse practitioner student clinical training is reserved for graduate DNP and MSN students interested in a nursing career in the Department of Veterans Affairs. Their working hours gained at the VA can go towards their clinical hours to become a nurse practitioner.

“This award actually came as a great surprise to me,” she remarks. She had been thinking about where she wanted to work when she was done with school, and the VA came to mind. She applied to their internship program, where she will be doing her capstone. She was thrilled when she was selected to participate.

She says, “I had been talking to associate professor Dr. Beth Luthy about how excited I was about applying and how I was looking forward to how rigorous the training is, and the growth I will have there.  They see lots of complex patients with complex problems and I know that I will learn so much.”

Unbeknownst to Minson, Luthy nominated her for the Valor Award and she was chosen! She says, “I was humbled and also very grateful to receive this award. I have always loved the elderly.  I started out as a CNA in high school and worked at rest homes and doing home health care with the geriatric population to get through my undergraduate. I also love the grandmas of my ward and love sitting with them.  I’ve always loved their deep well of knowledge and life experiences; they have a deep reservoir of love for their fellowmen because of what life has taught them. Taking care of an aging body with such a deep and wonderful heart can be a challenge, and it’s one I’m looking forward to.”

Coming back to school at 40 years old with three children was not easy for Minson, but she has enjoyed every minute. She says, “I’ve been blown away by how much each professor is individually interested in me and my learning.  This is a topnotch program and if you’re thinking about becoming a nurse practitioner then BYU is the best choice!”

She wants to give a special thanks to Luthy and associate teaching professor Dr. Blaine Winters for their confidence in her and nominating her.

Achieving Our Personal Best: Assistant Professor Neil Peterson Runs Half Marathon

Utah Valley Marathon

Who wakes up at 5am to run a race? This guy! Photo courtesy of Peterson.

By Quincey Taylor

As a college, faculty and staff love to celebrate in their coworkers’ academic accomplishments. From new research to successful student experiences, there is a lot to be excited about. However, the college as a community loves to celebrate in coworkers’ accomplishments outside of work as well.

Run, Forest, Run

On June 1, 2019, assistant professor Dr. Neil Peterson was a runner in the Utah Valley Half Marathon, truly living his teachings surrounding health and exercise. This was Peterson’s first half marathon he had completed. He had participated in many different triathlons, and decided to try his hand at a half. He trained for ten weeks coming up to it, hoping to get his own personal best time.

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Crossing the finish line was a great feeling for Peterson. Photo courtesy of Peterson.

His goal was to finish in under two hours. During training, he was able to finish the 13.1 miles in one hour, 55 minutes. His goal was to shave off five minutes and finish the race in one hour, 50 minutes. Accompanied by his brother, Peterson kept up with the 1:50 pacemaker for most of the race, eventually slowly passing her near the end.

At the finish line, Peterson got a personal best time of one hour, 47 minutes. He received the ‘Closer Award,’ meaning he ran the second half of the race faster than the first, something few runners can claim.

Student Volunteers Involved

In the recovery tent, BYU nursing student volunteers waited for any injuries that might happen to the participants. They helped runners with minor health problems, like dehydration and foot injuries.

When asked how he felt about knowing that his own students would help him if he were injured, Peterson laughed, “Oh, yeah, they know what they’re doing…They’ve got the knowledge that they need to be able to do what they need to do.”

The students volunteered to help out, giving of their time freely. Races are a great chance for students to get out there and volunteer, using the skills they have learned in class and clinical. Giving back to the community is an integral part of nursing that students should eagerly look to participate in. Peterson explains, “Nursing is not all about just getting paid. It’s about using your skills to help other people.”

Future Races

This Labor Day, Peterson plans to run another triathlon, as well as most likely participate in a marathon next year. This will be his first marathon he has ever run. Even though preparing for these races requires a significant amount of time, Peterson believes the effort is worth the reward.

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.”

 

From the Ballroom to the Emergency Room: Nursing Student Helps BYU Dance Team Win International Dance Competition

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Nicole Udall and her team leave victorious. Photo courtesy of BYU Dance Instagram.

By Quincey Taylor

On June 18, the Brigham Young University dance team returned victorious from the 2019 British Open Championship in Blackpool, England. Teams from various countries, including places like China and the Czech Republic, came to try and claim the title. BYU’s spectacular students, including recent nursing graduate Nicole Udall, brought them to victory. Their Latin dance team took first place overall, and the ballroom dance team took second.

Finding her Dancing Shoes

Coming to dance at BYU had been a dream of Udall’s since she was a little girl. As a child, she had danced different styles, including jazz and lyrical. She had no idea, however, that ballroom would eventually become her passion.

Her brother introduced Udall and her fraternal twin to the world of ballroom. At the time, he was on the BYU ballroom dance team going on tours. He had been doing ballroom since he was 13, and he wanted his younger sisters to start in that same stage of life. Udall and her sister loved to see their brother perform and to see the impact he was making.

She was inspired to try out ballroom for herself, and Udall loved it. She set the goal to one day dance on the BYU ballroom dance team and was successful, along with her twin.

Dance Led Her to Nursing

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Udall’s first IV insertion! Photo courtesy of Udall.

Udall soon found nursing, and immediately knew that it was the career for her. “I wanted to work with people,” she says, “As a dancer, I was so used to that. I wanted to have a deeper relationship with the people I worked with. When I looked for a career with those aspects, I found nursing. It checked those boxes that I had. I also wanted to find a degree that was intellectually challenging. I wanted to find something that would build me as a person and help me develop.”

Balancing Interests

However, balancing these two interests was not always easy. She reflects, “When I first came to the Y, I thought, ‘I’m going to do ballroom, that’s why I wanted to come to BYU.’ Then I found nursing. I was like, ‘This is the thing for me, this is the degree I want to do.’ However, when I was talking to people, they told me there’s no way I could do both. Nursing is a huge commitment. It definitely takes 100% of your effort. But dancing was such a part of me that I didn’t want to give it up.”

Udall did not give up and found a way to be able to do both. She says, “The thing that helped me balance the two was being able to communicate early with people. If you wait until the last minute, and came up to a professor and said, ‘Hey, I’m going to be gone this week.’ Then they would say, ‘What? You can’t do that.’ Being able to communicate early and to present solutions to problems was key.”

She has worked on being present for whatever she is doing at the moment, and says, “It’s also helpful to learn to prioritize, giving 100% of my effort to whatever I was doing at the time. If I was doing nursing, I was focused on nursing. If I was dancing, I was focused on dancing.”

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Va va voom! Photo courtesy of Udall.

After years dancing, Udall attributes many life lessons to ballroom. She says, “You learn how to unify as a team and be able to build relationships with other people. You’re not only working with a whole team, you’re working as partners as well. It’s important to be able to communicate with one another and problem solve, while still being happy and joyful while you work hard towards a goal.”

Another blessing Udall has gained from dance was her husband, who took a ballroom class where they met.

Udall is not the only nursing student to be on the ballroom dance team. She has always been happy to give advice to other nurses helping them to balance their passions. Having others going through the same thing is comforting and empowering.

The Championship

Udall was ecstatic to compete at the British Open Championship this year, as it was her last year as a BYU undergraduate as well as a competing ballroom dancer. While she has competed on both teams, this year she danced ballroom instead of Latin. She comments, “It was a culmination of our whole experience working together. We were all working towards this common goal unifying as a team through the ups and the downs. Seeing the reward of our progress was really cool.”

Team members support one another throughout the experience. Udall explains, “We got to watch each other, and we are each other’s biggest fans. We were so excited.”

Advice for Future Students

When asked what Udall would tell other nursing students struggling to balance multiple interests, Udall says, “I think the best advice I could give is to just go for it! A lot of people will tell you that you can’t do things because they don’t know how you can do them. However, being open to early communication and being a problem solver can make it possible.”

She expounds, “Live your dreams. There were many times that I wanted to give up, but letting go of one passion was like letting go of a part of me. I think it’s important to still go for your dreams and live them, just prioritize and communicate.”

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Udall (third from the right) and her fellow students pose with associate teaching professor Dr. Shelly Reed. Photo courtesy of Udall.

Plans After Graduation

After graduation and the dance championship, Udall plans on studying for and taking the NCLEX. She looks to find a job in the emergency room in Arizona, where she and her husband are moving. She plans to eventually go to school for a master’s degree to continue her education.