Category Archives: Inspiring

Eye-Opening Student Refugee Experience


Student Sidney Pratt with refugee family she cared for. Photo courtesy of Pratt.

By Quincey Taylor

You own a bakery. It is just you, your spouse, and your two children. Each night a threatening barrage of gunfire keeps you awake. Walking the streets has become too dangerous, even during daylight. Then, miracle of miracles, you and your family manage to escape the terrors and reach a different country. You leave behind most of your belongings and use most of your money on a flight. You are so grateful and happy to finally be safe, but to your dismay the troubles are not over. Rather than gunfire, now there is a seemingly infinite number of papers to fill out and questions to answer. They are extremely difficult for anyone to answer, let alone someone who has just gone through a traumatic experience. You do not know the language. You are suffering from crippling PTSD and depression. It seems like such a long road to travel before your life will be normal again.

This story is a sad reality for the millions of refugees all over the world. Each year, more people are displaced from their homes due to violence and tyranny. For nursing students everywhere, it is crucial to learn more about these populations that they will undoubtedly encounter. To prepare the students at BYU College of Nursing, associate teaching professor Debra Mills teaches a refugee and immigrant education course each winter semester. As part of their spring practicum in June, nine students attended the three day North American Refugee Health Conference in Portland. Students had their eyes opened to the many difficulties refugees encounter and how nurses, as health providers, can be sensitive to their needs.

The conference was open to anyone who wanted to learn how to help refugees in their community. Students mingled with social workers, refugee resource managers, mental health workers, psychiatrists, psychologists, researchers, physicians that work in refugee clinics, as well as refugees themselves. They heard inspiring speakers that had fled their own homes and come to the United States seeking refuge.

Nurses need to have their horizons widened and be aware of the cultural differences that they might encounter in the medical field. For example, if a woman from Sudan comes to the hospital to be treated, a male nurse cannot treat her because that is against her cultural beliefs. Mills commented on the experience, “We need, if we’re going to be healthcare providers, an understanding that not everybody has the same way of dealing with health, of dealing with illness.” She added, “It’s amazing to see how similar we all are. Everyone is one of God’s children. Some of our brothers and sisters, by no choice of their own, suffer violence, tyranny, lack of food, lack of resources, lack of shelter. We need to help them.”

Refugees face a multitude of challenges upon entering a new country. They must find a job without knowing the national language. They might have previous injuries or illnesses. Maybe they came from a country with free healthcare, but now they are expected to pay for it. Children learn the language much faster than their parents and often become the translator, taking on a bigger responsibility than their age usually permits. Families often feel that they have lost their culture. In some cases, they do not want to be here, but for safety reasons they have been uprooted to a foreign land they do not identify with.

Sidney Pratt, a student who attended the conference, described it by saying, “Not only did it show the many different options of resources we have but it also showed me a sliver of what a refugee has to go through to come over to the United States. Knowing this helps nurses to better treat patients in a holistic manner.” Students who sign up for the course get to experience foreign foods, clothing, traditions, as well as help a local refugee family. Mills thought the experience was extremely valuable for her pupils and hopes to return to the conference next year.


Three Generations of BYU Nurses

By Mindy Longhurst


Image of the Trapnell family at Lauren’s wedding. From left to right: Nancy Trapnell, Lauren Young and Laurie Rasmussen. Image courtesy of Rasmussen.

Nancy Trapnell (BS ’65), Laurie Rasmussen (BS ’90) and Lauren Young (semester five) are three generations of BYU College of Nursing graduates. The Healer’s art runs in the blood of these women; as all of them have gone on to serve others within healthcare. This love of service is a bonding desire that grandmother, mother and daughter all share.

Each of them were drawn to nursing for personal reasons. This legacy started when Trapnell was a little girl. She says, “Ever since I was little I wanted to be a nurse. I read a lot of Nancy Nurse Golden Books.” She studied nursing at BYU and went on to have a career that she thoroughly enjoyed.

Following her mother’s example, Rasmussen decided to pursue nursing as well. She says, “I grew up watching my mom as a nurse and the satisfaction that she felt at work. She then came home and talked about her career. That is what inspired me.” Rasmussen now works at a surgical center helping patients with same day recovery.

Following suite, Young began studying nursing as the third generation. The influence of her mother and grandmother inspired her. Young says, “I followed the same path. I really liked how my mom and grandma always helped our family when anything was going on. They were always helping neighbors. I felt like a nursing career was a great way that I could be a Mom and be actively involved with my family and community.” She hopes to work in the ICU after she graduates in April 2019.

Nancy at BYU

Image of Trapnell when she was a nursing student at BYU. Image courtesy of Rasmussen.

Trapnell loves to talk to her granddaughter and see the changes that have happened in the BYU College of Nursing since she has been there. Trapnell explains, “When I was a student, nothing was disposable. We had to sharpen needles and clean the gloves and bedpans. We lived by the LDS Hospital in a dorm. That was a lot of fun because our class got so close! We still are very close.”

However, one thing that has not changed is the college’s mission to teach its students the Healer’s art. Young explains, “I have been able to learn so much by learning nursing with a gospel perspective. It has just been really eye opening to understand how much God really is involved in our lives and how much the Savior sacrificed for all of us. I can think of an instance just last week while I was at clinical. I took care of a patient that was dirty, stinky, drug addicted and homeless. My first impression was that I did not want to take care of the patient. But, I really did have to step back and think ‘I have been taught to serve everyone I have come in contact with as a nurse.’ I feel in those situations it is so much easier to think that I can be like the Savior; I can implement the Healer’s art. Treating everyone with kindness and love is exactly what the Savior would do.”

Trapnell currently works as a hospice nurse, where she learned the beauty of the Healer’s art after spending a Christmas day with a patient rather than her family. She describes, “Two Christmases ago, I got a call that someone had fallen at the nursing home I worked at. They called me in to help assess the patient. At first, I was frustrated because I had to leave my family. When I went inside, I discovered this patient had fallen on the ground and broken his hip and I was able to give him pain medication to make him comfortable. I stayed for about an hour and a half waiting for his family to come. This was one of the nicest Christmases I had because I gave up something for myself in order to give to someone else.”

BYU changed the way that these women were able to live the gospel and learn about nursing through the lens of the Savior.

Trapnell explains, “I grew up in a home that was not very active in the church. When it was time for me to choose a college, my father told me that I needed to come to BYU for at least a year. When I came here, I absolutely loved it! I loved the spiritual aspect. I just loved BYU! BYU taught all of us to always be honest. It was able to set me for life. I was able to be married in the temple and continue faithfully in the Church for the rest of my life.”

Rasmussen was influenced by her mother’s love for BYU, and was raised by parents who were big BYU fans. She says, “I grew up thinking that BYU was great, and growing up in Arizona, I knew that is where I wanted to go. I remember it was hard to get into the nursing program, but I was able to get in. I loved the clinical experience and the feeling in the nursing program. Everyone is united and supports each other. I love BYU!”


Image of Young while learning how to insert an IV. Image courtesy of Rasmussen.

Continuing the legacy, Young came to BYU to study after a year at SUU. BYU was always in her backyard, and that is where all her friends wanted to go. She decided to attend her freshman year at SUU and says, “While there, I missed being surrounded by people who believed the way that I believed. Having professors that understand what I believe makes a difference. They teach here differently because they make it applicable to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I think it took me getting away to realize that I am lucky to have this so close to home. I found my place at BYU when I was accepted into the Nursing program. I feel like I will not just be a better nurse, but I will leave here being a better person because of BYU.”

As a side note, Rasmussen is married to Assistant teaching professor Ryan Rasmussen. To learn more about his latest project, visit

Letting Go of Our Own Bias: BYU College of Nursing At-Risk Program


By Quincey Taylor

Each spring semester, a group of twelve nursing students participates in the At-Risk section of the public and global health nursing course practicum. Led by associate teaching professor, Dr. Peggy Anderson, these students are actively involved in helping give treatment to vulnerable populations, including incarcerated individuals. It is always an eye-opening experience for the students as they let go of their previously conceived notions and biases about these populations.

Anderson is passionate about the At-Risk program, having led it for about 14 years. It all started back when she was called to be the Relief Society president for a group of women at a Utah prison. Even though she was not sure what to expect in the beginning, she grew to love the position and the insights it brought. She comments, “It was an incredibly spiritual experience. I remember walking through the security doors that first day and just having this distinct impression that I had been prepared, both educationally and through my unique life experiences to serve in that capacity. I absolutely loved it.”

Later, Anderson was able to spearhead the At-Risk program, which involves the BYU nursing students in helping these vulnerable populations as their practicum during the spring semester. This group of students work with a broad audience of individuals, including those with chronic disease processes, incarcerated populations, children with special healthcare needs, and children who have been victims of violent crime. Nursing students are assigned a facility, helped on their first day by Anderson to establish themselves, and then they are largely left on their own to perform their duties for the following weeks. Students are given the opportunity to interact with these diverse individuals and forget some of their previous bias. As modern-day good Samaritans, they learn to look on each individual in need the same way the Savior would.

Nursing is a special occupation because it does not turn off when you leave the hospital. A nurse is always a nurse, and the At-Risk program shows students their obligation to help others to their best ability at every opportunity. Anderson states, “Nursing it isn’t a nine-to-five job. Everywhere you go, you take nursing with you. You practice nursing wherever you are, including your interactions with others. If a neighbor calls you in the middle of the night, you are still a nurse.” By participating in the At-Risk program, Anderson hopes students will create a ripple effect of service that will continue into their professional careers.

Participants also get the opportunity to attend the Children’s Justice Symposium, which is put on by the Children’s Justice Centers and the Attorney General’s Office every year. The students network with other members of the community that are working to fulfill these same needs. They learn a lot about advocacy and teamwork, as well as how a community pulls together to meet the needs of its vulnerable populations.

One of the participating students commented on the 2018 experience, “At-Risk has influenced my outlook on advocacy and creating social change. I now recognize that all people deserve a chance to prove themselves and I will do my best to treat everyone equally…. These have been great learning opportunities for me that Heavenly Father needed me to experience so that I would change for the better. I recognize that I have been placed in these situations for a reason and Heavenly Father wants me to learn from them. I have truly learned about the Healer’s art this semester and how He incorporates Himself into the medical field. He does it through many ways. But most importantly for me to recognize, He incorporates Himself through me.”

Anderson is excited to take her next group of students, and to see the change this rewarding experience inspires in each individual. She is a firm believer that “every student that comes with me during spring semester is there for a reason” and that “the Lord knows who each one of us is, no matter where we are in life. He truly cares about the very details of our lives.”


Graduate Student Experiential Learning

By Mindy Longhurst

maren with students on boatGraduate student, Maren Topham and assistant teaching professor, Daphne Thomas with undergraduate students in Tonga. Image courtesy of Topham.

The College of Nursing undergraduates participate in a Public and Global Health study abroad during the spring of their senior year. This experience allows them to learn more about a different culture and study nursing techniques from other parts of the world. In some instances, a graduate student will come and be a mentor figure for the undergraduate students. With the help of a Graduate Mentoring Assistance Grant, graduate student Maren Topham was able to mentor others in the Kingdom of Tonga this past spring.

teaching childrenTeaching Tongan children about hygiene. Image courtesy of Topham.

Topham was able to supervise some of the clinical rotations, teach the undergraduate students and supervise the work with the nurses in Tonga. The purpose of the public and global health clinical is to be completely submerged in another culture. Topham says, “In nursing you take care of a variety of people. I learned valuable lessons that will help me with my career. We had many different cultural experiences. We wanted to learn about how they view family, healthcare and religion.”

blood pressureA nursing student taking someone’s blood pressure. Image courtesy of Topham.

Assistant teaching professor, Daphne Thomas, was able to accompany Topham. It was exciting for Thomas to see Topham mentoring others. Thomas expounds, “Maren was a role model for the undergraduate students! You get to build a relationship with students that you can’t get anywhere else.” A nursing student explains, “I think having a graduate student enhanced our experience because we could have an example of applying the classroom to ‘real life’. We try to do that as nursing students, but we do not yet have that experience! It was great to see how Maren brought education and application together!”

peopleNursing students in Tonga. Image courtesy of Topham.

The experiences and events that they had in Tonga will help everyone to become more loving and compassionate nurses. While in Tonga, they were able to learn more about rheumatic fever and heart disease. This disease in more common in Tonga and is usually a result of untreated strep throat that negatively effects the heart valves. The students were able to learn from the nurses in Tonga about how they treat rheumatic fever and they discussed the ways that it is treated in the United States. Topham loves to be able to learn more about how other countries perform healthcare and how others learn.

weavingA nursing student learning how to weave a rug. Image courtesy of Topham.

The Graduate Mentoring Assistance Grant is given to a certain number of graduate students throughout the university who will be using the funds for experiential learning. This type of learning includes having experiences that help graduate students mentor undergraduate students. With this grant, her whole time in Tonga was financed. The grant even allowed them to be able to have transportation to go into more communities, learning more about the Tongan culture and healthcare system. The experiential learning program allowed Topham to have a life changing experience.

pretty tongaThe beauty of Tonga. Image courtesy of Topham.

Breeze Hollingsworth’s Life Changing Veterans Experience

By Mindy Longhurst

GroupThe Veterans Public and Global Health group. Image courtesy of Breeze Hollingsworth.

Tears filled Breeze Hollingsworth’s eyes as she explained the experiences she had during the veterans section of the public and global health nursing course practicum. The feelings of appreciation and gratitude she gained while learning about the military and veterans changed her life.

This year, those who participated were able to attend the USNS Mercy in San Diego, military sites around the state of Utah and were able to visit Washington D.C. twice. The second time they went to Washington D.C. they were guardians of a veteran for a Utah Honor Flight to honor those who have served our country.

The journey with the clinical was unique for Hollingsworth. The students prioritize out of the 12 public and global health locations where they would like to attend. After this, they are randomly assigned where they will go. Normally people get a place that is in their top three choices. This was not the case for Hollingsworth; the Veterans site was further down her list because she wanted to go international. At first, she was a little saddened that she did not get to go foreign. Hollingsworth explains how she changed her viewpoint, “Once I started and committed to the veterans, I was determined to learn everything I could because I knew that this could help me.”

San Diego

She really had a change of heart while on the army base in San Diego. Hollingsworth explains, “When I went to the base in San Diego I got really excited because it was so cool! It was a world I had never explored. My love for them increased exponentially in that first visit.” While in San Diego, they were able to board the USNS Mercy boat (to learn more about her experiences on the USNS Mercy, read our previous article at

Sites in Utah

While in Utah, they were able to travel to different military sites and meet veterans and active military personnel. Hollingsworth met Frank Thomas, who did artwork for the military. The military commissions artists to paint and draw pictures of what they see while in war. His beautiful artwork can be seen on his website

Washington D.C.

The first time they went to Washington D.C., they were able to visit the National Institute of Health for Nursing, the Veterans Affairs headquarters and were able to see some memorial sites in the D.C. area.

Audrey and BreezeHollingsworth with Audrey Kent. Image courtesy of Hollingsworth.

The second trip to D.C. was the most rewarding because they were able to be a helper and guardian for a veteran. Hollingsworth was able to spend her time with Audrey Kent, a nurse during WWII. While there, they were able to see several sites that were meaningful to Kent including a nurse memorial, a WWII and a Vietnam memorial. Hollingsworth says, “The person that I took, Audrey, was a nurse during WWII. Her son passed away in Vietnam and she had another son with her on the trip who had served in Vietnam. Being able to take her to see her son’s name on the Vietnam memorial was emotional because she had never seen the memorial before. It makes me happy that we have all of these memorials to remember those who have served our country.”

ArlingtonImage of Arlington Cemetery. Image courtesy of Hollingsworth.

While in D.C., they had the humbling and sacred experience visiting the Arlington National Cemetery. Hollingsworth explains, “The cemetery, Arlington, was a spiritual experience. Just to think about that all of these people sacrificed for their freedom and sacrificed for my freedom, made it very real to me.”

The time Hollingsworth had while in the veteran practicum trip changed the way she views the world. Now she looks for those who have or are currently serving to reach out to them and thank them for their service. She hopes to be able to use the information she has received and the experiences she has had to help those who will be in her care after she graduates. Teaching professor, Dr. Kent Blad, was one of the nursing professors that organized the experience. Being a veteran himself, Blad has a love for those who have served this country. According to Blad, there are about 24 million veterans in the United States. This means that nurses are very likely to come across veterans while working. The experiences they have while on the Veterans Public and Global Health clinical will help them throughout their career.

Hollingsworth says, “I think first and foremost, this experience made me love my country more. It also made me love the people that served my country past and present. It made me want to know my patients well enough to know if they have served in the military. This experience made me have a greater desire to seek them out in nursing care and in everyday life.”




Turn On Your Light

By Brandon Lewis

Brandon Lewis Grad PicBrandon Lewis speaking at August 2018 convocation.

In light of this year’s graduation theme, “Turn on Your Light,” I’d like to share with you a recent experience. A few months ago, I had a mid-school crisis. Maybe you have had a similar experience, where you question everything you are doing and wonder if you made the right career choice. In my case, I was reflecting on my recent clinical hours.  In a family practice that emphasizes functional medicine, a majority of the patients I had seen were struggling with chronic disease. As you know, there exists no magic pill that will reverse chronic disease overnight, and improvements were very slow coming for some of my patients. So, I found myself asking, “Is what I do improving the lives of others? Am I making a difference? Do patients even need me?”

As I pondered these questions over the next few days, I had a distinct prompting come to my mind.  It was simple, but the answer I was searching for. The prompting said, “They aren’t supposed to do this alone. None of us are supposed to do this alone. We were never meant to do this alone.”

That was reassuring to me. As I thought about this answer, the first line of the Portuguese hymn, Lead Kindly Light, kept coming to my mind. It translates as, “In the darkness oh shine sweet light. Come guide me!”

As this hymn and this year’s graduation theme portray, we have chosen a profession that allows us to be there for others, to turn on our light, and guide them through their darkest times. They will not have to do this alone, just as we would have never been able to get to where we are today alone.

So in that light, before continuing my thoughts, I want to take a moment to thank all of the friends, family, and faculty that have helped each one of the graduates reach this milestone. I know I would not be standing here today without the unconditional, loving, devoted support of my wife Lana and our children, without my favorite aunt named Sheryl, who let me sleep on her couch all through school, without wonderful in-laws that looked after my family while I was away at school, supportive parents, and countless others. I know every graduate here feels the same about those closest to them in their lives. And I know we are all especially grateful for the sometimes thankless sacrifices, time, and efforts that the faculty put in to educate us and get us to graduation.  We couldn’t have done it alone, so thank you.

And now we’re here. Not alone, but together, having received the help we needed to become successful healers. Now we get to turn on our light and provide a beacon of hope to others, like our Savior does for us.  In his book ​“When Breath Becomes Air”,​ Neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi eloquently captured this principle of being there for others when he said,

“The physician’s duty (and I would add nurses and nurse practitioners) is not to stave off death or return patients to their old lives, but to take into our arms a patient and family whose lives have disintegrated and work until they can stand back up and face, and make sense of, their own existence.”

For some of us, this may be done in an emergency room trauma bay, preventing the loss of a life.  For others, it may be in hospice, providing a peaceful transition out of this life. It could be in surgery, oncology, cardiology, pediatrics, primary care, or countless other ways where our services are required.  It could be full time, part time, here in Utah, or anywhere else in the world. The important thing is that, as Oprah advised,

“You…find what sparks a light in you so that you, in your own way, can illuminate the world.”  Or as Sister Eubank admonished, to turn on your light.

I know that as nurses and nurse practitioners we will bring light to a lot of people, and together, we really can illuminate the world, especially as we remember to “let [our] light so shine before men, that they may see [our] good works, and glorify our Father, which is in heaven.”

I would like to close with a poem from Irish poet John O’Donohue entitled, “For A Nurse”

In this fragile frontier-place, your kindness

Becomes a light that consoles the brokenhearted,

Awakens within desperate storms

That oasis of serenity that calls

The spirit to rise from beneath the weight of pain,

To create a new space in the person’s mind

Where they gain distance from their suffering

And begin to see the invitation

To integrate and transform it.

May you embrace the beauty in what you do

And how you stand like a secret angel

Between the bleak despair of illness

And the unquenchable light of spirit

That can turn the darkest destiny towards dawn.

May you never doubt the gifts you bring;

Rather, learn from these frontiers

Wisdom for your own heart.

May you come to inherit

The blessings of your kindness

And never be without care and love

When winter enters your own life.

As nurses and nurse practitioners, I hope we recognize the privilege we have of turning on our lights to awaken the brokenhearted and help others rise from beneath the weight of pain and transform it…just as our Savior, The Master Healer, does for each of us. Because of Him, we never have to do this alone.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Brandon Lewis spoke at the August 2018 college convocation.

Let Your Light Shine

By Daniel R. Smith

Daniel SmithDaniel Smith speaking at August 2018 convocation.

In her general conference address, Sharon Eubank tells a story of how two innovative onlookers used their light to save the lives of two young boys caught in a rip current in Panama City Beach in Florida. As soon as Roberta Ursrey saw her two young sons screaming for help 100 yards from the beach, many other people jumped in the water to save the boys. However, their attempts to rescue the boys were unsuccessful and soon there were nine people struggling to keep their heads above the water until Jessica Simmons and her husband formed an 80-person human chain to save the others. It must have been amazing to see all those strangers coming together to help in that rescue. In order for this rescue to be a success, someone had to be different and raise their voice. Someone had to turn on their light. This is what we have been taught in Brigham Young University’s College of Nursing.

Through different channels we all decided to become nurses. This idea became a dream, which will soon become reality, and has in so many ways already become a calling for us. As we have learned the Healer’s Art, each of us has learned to turn on his or her light.

Each of us celebrated as we read our acceptance letters. With each semester that passed, our competitive natures changed from “How can I survive in this class?” to “How can we help each other?” to “How can I learn the Healer’s art to better care for my patients?”

We have all made sacrifices and seen success while learning the Healer’s Art. We have learned to celebrate with those that need celebrating and lift up others going through difficult circumstances. This is the heart of nursing.

One of the unique things about nursing is that it allows for us to choose from a variety of different fields in which we may turn on that light. Each of us will take different paths to find our niche. Some of us will end up in long-term care, medical/surgical units, pediatrics, labor and delivery, emergency care, intensive care, management, advanced practice, and many other areas. No matter which specialty we end up in, we will all spend the years to come developing the Healer’s Art.

Healing goes beyond fixing a medical diagnosis. BYU has taught us to help others heal spiritually, mentally, and emotionally as well as physically.

Nurses are special people. Though few in numbers, their light is a great influence that shines throughout the world. I would go as far to say that everyone in this room has been effected in some way by a nurse.

For me, it was a nurse that told me I could run that half marathon two-and-a-half weeks after being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

It was nurses that got my wife and me through the difficult week that my wife was hospitalized due to complications in her pregnancy. And it was my fellow nursing students that helped support me in the months that followed.

Nurses are like light houses in the storm. They care, guide, and give hope. It is my hope that each of us lets our lights so shine as we go into the nursing profession.

Congratulations class of 2018!

Daniel Smith spoke at the August 2018 college convocation.