Category Archives: Inspiring

The Girl Who Loves Getting Sick

By Calvin Petersen

There’s a reason people say things like, “I’m going to avoid it like the plague!” Most people are worried, even terrified, of becoming sick. Most. Not Erin Ward. A student in her first semester of BYU’s nursing program, Erin actually looks forward to getting sick.

Erin told her classmates that getting strep throat was the best thing that happened over Christmas break at her home in Virginia Beach. “Everyone looked at me like I was really weird,” says Erin. “I love, love getting sick. And this is terrible, but I do, I love getting sick.”

To her, getting sick is the perfect excuse for Erin’s mom to make chicken noodle soup, bring her warm blankets and allow her a day of uninterrupted sleep. “I think it’s a really nice feeling. Everybody wants somebody to take care of them once in a while.” Understanding what it means to receive devoted care is just one reason why Erin feels at home in BYU’s College of Nursing.

Erin West Stethoscope.jpg

A 9th Grade Prophecy

Erin’s 9th grade chemistry teacher was the first to tell her that he thought she’d make a great nurse.  “That’s so sexist! You’re saying that because I’m a girl,” thought Erin, “I’m going to become a chemical engineer.” However, several chemistry classes later, she realized chemistry just wasn’t for her. Erin instead fell in love with volunteering at local hospitals where caring for patients took on a more spiritual aspect.

“I just really wanted to do what the Savior would be doing. And I thought ‘If the Savior could be anywhere, He would be administering unto the sick.’ So I started volunteering at hospitals. I was fourteen and then I kept going all the way through senior year in high school.” She became a certified nursing assistant (CNA) and worked at the hospital every summer, providing basic care to patients.

An Angel in the Cardiac Unit

During one of her volunteer shifts at the hospital, Erin took ice chips to a bed-bound woman in the cardiac unit. She stayed after her ice delivery to give the woman some company. At one point in their conversation, the woman smiled warmly at Erin and said reverently, “I see the light of Christ all around you. You glow like you are an angel.” Erin was moved by her words and was surprised to find out that the woman wasn’t LDS.

“That was an amazing experience,” says Erin. “That was probably the first time I realized that the little things really can make a difference. I just brought her ice chips and talked to her, which made an impression on her, and more importantly, made an impression on me.”

Erin West Portrait

Not only does Erin love getting sick, but she also loves the hospital. “People have terrible memories in the hospital and that makes me so sad because for me everything about the hospital is super positive. I even like the smell,” she says. Nursing is evidently the perfect career for her.

A Committed Nurse in Training

Even though Erin was offered a four-year, full-tuition scholarship and entrance to the honors nursing program as a freshman at the University of Utah, she decided to study nursing at BYU. Beginning the rigorous first semester of the program also meant she had to give up taking band class. “In high school, I was third in the state for French horn,” Erin recalls.

Additionally, she stepped down from her student government position for on-campus housing. And although she won’t have time for an American Sign Language (ASL) class either, Erin hopes to use her six years of experience signing on her upcoming LDS mission. To Erin, becoming a nurse means becoming more like the Savior, and that makes any sacrifice worth it.

“The Savior, ministers to the one and nursing is completely ministering to the one. I mean, taking time to bring water to someone or talking to somebody when you’re really busy, that’s ministering to the one. That’s why nurses do what they do, because of those little interactions. I think those little ‘You are an angel’ moments are what keep us going. I think that’s probably what would make the Savior very happy.”

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The Miracle of Birth

The Miracle of Birth

Ashley Dyer

The most spiritual experience I had this semester was the day I was able to see my first birth while completing OB and Pediatric nursing clinical rotations at the University of Utah and Primary Children’s Hospital .

That whole morning, I sat in front of a computer screen monitoring an unborn baby’s heart rate.  Every 15 minutes I would have to chart how he was doing – what his baseline heart rate was, if there were any abnormal decelerations, etc.

The time finally came for baby to be born. I was so excited. I had gotten to know baby’s family that morning. There were quite a few family members there who would be present during the birth and they were all so anxious and excited. Rather than just watching the birth, I stood at mom’s side, with my arm on her shoulder, helping her breathe and monitoring baby’s heart rate. It was intense, despite the fact that she had an epidural.

As I watched her concentrated face as she struggled to bear down and saw her exhaustion and relief each time she was allowed to rest, my heart went out to her. And then, after minutes of contractions that involved pushing and resting, the baby finally entered the world.  His first cry was emotional and precious. The second the mother heard it, she broke down crying. In turn I was suddenly overcome with so much emotion that I surprised myself when I started crying as well. I quickly reminded myself that I needed to be more professional and  hold back the tears that kept wanting to come out. The grandmother later came over and, with a smile on her face, told me she had seen the tears.  So much for trying to be professional.  But she seemed to think it was cute.

Ashley

As I have pondered on my experience with birth this Christmas season, my thoughts have naturally turned to the experience of Mary, who gave birth to the Savior of the world in a grotto filled with animals. After taking OB and seeing an actual birth, I have come to understand how miraculous the delivery of a baby really is. There are so many things that can go wrong, especially in a natural birth. Without pain medications to ease the experience, I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for Mary that special night.

I can, on the other hand, imagine how hard the Adversary was working to prevent this birth from happening. Yet Mary was faithful and willing to keep the commandments of God. Her response to the angel Gabriel’s announcement that she would bear the Son of God was, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38). How similar these words are to the words Mary’s son would later speak as He was about to do the most difficult thing He had ever done on earth: “Not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matt. 26:39).

So when the time came for Mary to deliver her baby, her faith allowed her to follow the Lord’s command, despite the obstacles that were placed in her way. This handmaiden of the Lord was able to discover God’s will, develop faith in God’s will, submit to God’s will, and praise God for allowing her be a part of His will (Luke 1:46-55). And I can imagine that Mary’s unexpected sacrifice to give birth in an animal-filled cave and the suffering she went through during her birth experience must have been so worth it for her.

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Have you ever held a newborn baby? And watched it look up at you, somewhat confused as its eyes accustom to the bright lights? Have you seen the purity that seems to naturally radiate from its countenance?  And the innocence that can be so easily found in its beautiful newborn eyes? After this semester, I can finally say that I have. As I cared for the newborn baby boy I had watched enter the world that special day, I could not help but think about where he had come from and what he had been called to do here on earth. I could not help but conclude that he was truly a child of God who had divine potential. And I could not help but confirm to myself that the Plan of Salvation was true thanks to the birth and lifelong ministry of the Only Begotten Son of God. And with the apostles, this Christmas season, I too would like to rejoice and declare, “God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine Son.”

Ashley Dyer is a fourth semester BYU nursing student. She was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan and grew up in Shanghai, China.

 

Caring for Those Who Need It Most

BYU Nursing student Emily Graham took a deep breath as she entered the surgical unit. As she inhaled, she looked at the operating table… and the blood. The patient in front of her had cut himself pretty badly. Wasting no time, Graham and the physician went to work, checking the wound for any foreign objects that might have gotten inside and placing sutures to close the wound. Once the sutures were finally placed and the wound had stopped seeping, Graham began gingerly wiping the blood off the patient. Every so often, her eyes strayed to the shackles that bound her orange jumpsuit-clad patient to the surgical table. This man had been through a lot, she thought to herself. She didn’t know anything about his past, and she didn’t need to, she reminded herself. At that moment, she was just glad to give him the care he needed.

Last spring, Graham was one of several students who participated in the At-Risk Populations clinicum for the Public and Global Health Nursing course, an experience that she and many of her fellow classmates say changed the way they view “The Healer’s Art.”

“The purpose of the course is to help students prepare to take care of patients that are vulnerable and are at more risk,” associate teaching professor Peggy Anderson explains. “The group that I teach gets to work with and serve populations that are at-risk here in the local area.”

Students enrolled in the course have the opportunity to work with patients from a wide range of backgrounds – from diabetes and disability clinic patients to inmates at adult and juvenile detention centers. Anderson says that nearly all of her students have an opportunity to volunteer for 8-10 hour shifts at either the Utah County Jail or the Utah State Prison.

“For most students, this is a cultural type experience, where they learn cultural humility,” Anderson explains. “The students learn how to care for someone without making judgments. Even though the inmate’s lifestyles may be different than the students’ lifestyles or their choices are different than what the students’ choices might be in life, the students learn to care for all of God’s children without judgment.”

“I think a lot of us are raised to think of prisoners and inmates as ‘bad people’ and that we shouldn’t associate with these individuals because they are ‘dangerous’,” Graham says. “However, I learned that many of these people are simply products of their environments, and that many of them lacked the love and opportunities I enjoyed as a child. Through learning about inmates and prison culture, I was able to see the good, the courage, and the strength many of these men possess, and also able to shake off my own prejudices and fears. I learned that everyone wants to feel loved, and everyone deserves love.”

“The inmates were really nice,” fellow student Annemarie Sudweeks adds. “I was a little scared at first because I didn’t know how they would interact. My first day was kind of weird for me, but the more I went, the more I felt comfortable interacting with them. You want to keep your distance, and keep those professional boundaries, but they’re human beings and they have feelings and you can tell that they have needs.”

During their time at the prison, students have the chance to serve inmates in a wide variety of circumstances. On any given day, students will perform physical assessments, administer and distribute medication, or change bandages for inmates.

For many students, the highlight of the course was a special musical fireside held at the women’s prison just before the end of the semester. Students shared their testimonies with many of the women they had served during their time at the prison.

“I really got to interact with the inmates in that setting more than in the clinical setting,” Sudweeks recalls. “It was cool just to see how much they want to do better and improve; you can see that they’re trying. It was reminder to me that they’re someone’s mom or daughter or grandmother and that they have a lot of potential.”

While reflecting on the impact of this course, one student wrote, “Throughout my experience I’ve been thinking about Jesus Christ and wondering about His culture. The more I look around in the world, the more I see that He does not subscribe to a single culture. When He was resurrected, He appeared to people of different cultures and He perfectly connected with people in each and every one. I could feel His love and influence as I worked with children with special healthcare needs and with inmates. I now know that Jesus’ art of healing can come to me as I attempt to understand where people are coming from. I can never perfectly understand anyone’s situation, but I know that as I try to love someone as the Savior would, the barriers of culture will crumble and I can truly connect and help people.”

 

 

 

Strong Character and Values Are Just as Important as Knowledge

Piano

Whether nursing students are learning about safe patient handling, isolation precautions, or bowel elimination, there is always something that I have learned that applies to building my character as I continue in my career of becoming a nurse. This has taught that no matter what we learn, the true point is to shape our character to provide the best care possible.

The idea of strengthening values and building character also influenced my actions in my clinical experience [last] semester. I had the opportunity to work at a nursing home and dealt with many patients who had a variety of health problems.

One week, I was working with a patient. (I’ll call her Katie.) I was nervous to work with this patient as a new student nurse. Not only did she suffer from hemiplegia and paraplegia, which severely limited her movement, she also could not speak.

She had suffered a stroke a few years back and had lost her ability to talk. Her only speech was three nonsensical syllables that she would say over and over again. She communicated by the tone of her voice saying those syllables and by moving the one arm that she still had control over.

Nothing in nursing school had prepared me for this. How was I supposed to help someone that could not even express to me what she needed? I spent over an hour looking for her glasses that first day. She became upset with me, and I left at the end of the day feeling extremely frustrated.

That weekend I completed my mid-semester evaluation where one of the categories was evaluating my caring ability. I rated myself on how I met my client’s biopsychosocial needs in a caring and compassionate manner. I knew this was something I needed to improve and I remembered back to my N295 Fundamentals class, where the professor would explain that the important lesson was not just the knowledge that we learned but how it contributed to our character and values.

I went to the care center the following week with a renewed resolve on how to care for my patient.

Since this was the second week caring for Katie, I knew more of her daily routine. I was able to get her ready for breakfast, but we arrived 20 minutes early, and preparation for breakfast was underway.

I saw a piano in the room and asked if she had ever played the piano. She nodded that she had, and then motioned to ask me if I knew how to play. I responded in the affirmative and she pointed at me again to go to the piano as if she wanted me to play.

I knew accompaniment was not in the scope of my duties as a student nurse. However I had promised myself to do all that I could to care for her, so I sat down at the piano. The only book on the piano was an LDS hymnal; I knew she was LDS, so I started playing for her.

The amazing thing was that even though she could not speak, the stroke did not affect the area of her brain that dealt with singing. She sang the notes of the melody to every song I played. I have never seen someone happier than Katie at that moment. For a brief time, I even had the whole room singing a hymn with me.

When finished, even though she could not fully express it, I knew she was thankful that I played the piano. I appreciate the opportunity to go out of my comfort zone and do my best to be sensitive to Katie’s needs, even though what I did was not a normal nursing duty.

The next week at the care center I found out that Katie had passed away. I am thankful that I took the advice of my professor and worked attentively to meet Katie’s needs and lift her spirits. I am blessed to know that in her final days, I was able to provide the best care possible.

Winner of the college’s annual essay contest, Claire Hunsaker is a third-semester nursing student from El Dorado Hills, California.

Sabbath Around the World

The Lord has frequently declared that we are to keep the Sabbath Day holy. Earlier this month we explored BYU nursing professors balance work responsibilities with this commandment while working on Sundays. Now we highlight some of the various ways that students in the clinical practicum for the Public and Global Health Nursing courses sanctify the Lord’s Day while serving others in their diverse locales.

Veterans

After church services, the Veteran group visits Arlington Cemetery where many of the United States’ war veterans are interred. The group participates in the Changing of the Guard and a wreath ceremony while touring the grounds. Students present on veterans that they have researched.

“It’s a spiritual feast every year to be in such a sacred place, where all who are there have given the ultimate sacrifice,” says teaching professor Dr. Kent Blad, who heads the group. “’Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’ (John 15:13). It’s my favorite day of every year.”

Vets

Samoa

In Samoa, students tend to volunteer with the local wards.

“We divided the students up and some helped in the nursery, some substituted primary and taught about the love of God for all his children, and some worked with the young women-all in an English speaking ward,” writes assistant teaching professor Gaye Ray of one of her trips to Samoa. “Another Sunday we attended a Samoan-speaking ward and participated in the fast and testimony meeting.” Students also met a 92-year-old convert and visited the Samoan temple.

“In all sites we use the day for personal study, reflection on lessons learned about humility and what it means to be culturally humble, gospel truths, along with discussions surrounding our observations on ‘locally appropriate’ cultural adaptations of church programs and how they bless the lives of the saints in the country,” Ray says.

Neil

Finland and the Czech Republic

Associate teaching professor Dr. Leslie Miles explains that students visit the small Savonlinna branch in Finland, give talks, and present musical numbers. She describes it as the “highlight of the year for the members.” Afterwards, the students take flowers to the local cemetery, tour houses, walk in the forests, and talk with the missionaries.

In the Czech Republic, students visit other churches and learn about various religions.

Ecuador

Ghana

The Lord’s work doesn’t stop on the Lord’s day. Students who travel to Ghana will do blood pressure and blood glucose checks for local ward members on Sunday.

“A favorite activity is to have a fireside with the Abu family and hear first-hand about the conversion story of African pioneer members,” says associate teaching professor Karen de la Cruz, who heads the Ghana trip. “We have also had the sweet opportunity to have a dinner and testimony activity with the missionary couple that serve in the Abomosu sub-district.”

Eat

Who Comforts Nurses?

Note: See our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/BYUNursing/) for this article’s accompanying video

Who comforts nurses?

It’s a question that may feel odd to ask, given that nurses care for and comfort others. People sometimes forget that nurses are human too.

So who is the designated person for nurses to turn to when their workload seems to be overwhelming them?

“Unfortunately sometimes nobody,” explains assistant teaching professor Stacie Hunsaker. Hunsaker studies two phenomenon that occur frequently in the nursing profession—burnout and empathy fatigue.

Burnout, she explains, is “exhaustion from the demands of work” and can happen in any job. Empathy fatigue is a condition that is a bit more specific to healthcare and has reaching consequences.

“That is when a healthcare provider feels too tired to care,” Hunsaker explains. “Maybe they’ve had a lot of emotional patients, a lot of emotional cases, a lot of things that cause almost PTSD. They didn’t experience the event that caused the stress, but by caring for others and having that empathy for them, it hurts them. People often build up a hard shell to prevent more hurt, so they stop caring.”

When a nurse experiences empathy fatigue, it can deeply affect the way he or she treats patients.

“Most of us decide to enter nursing because we love people and we care for people, and if you build up a wall, you can’t make that connection with a patient,” Hunsaker says. “It really can negatively impact the patient’s care. A lot of research has shown that it can negatively impact even a patient’s recovery.”

How common is empathy fatigue? According to Hunsaker, it’s fairly prevalent.

“There are a lot of studies and a lot of research that it’s most often recognized and probably the biggest problem in those areas that have more exposure to death or dying or psychologically exhausting patients,” she says. These areas include intensive care units, emergency departments, and oncology.

Luckily, research has also shown ways to combat empathy fatigue. Some are basic, such as getting enough sleep, exercising, and eating well. Hunsaker recommends that new nurses avoid picking up too many overtime shifts and take sufficient time to focus on themselves and their relationships with others outside of work. Positivity is also an important tool.

“The number one thing that’s easy to do that I would suggest for nurses is every night before you go to bed write down three good things that happened to you,” she says.

Additionally, nurses need to find someone who they can turn to for help. Research has shown that those who comfort in turn need someone to comfort them.

“I teach and try to tell my students and new nurses to talk to somebody that you know gets it or understands,” Hunsaker says.

One of these sources can be Heavenly Father.

“I can’t imagine practicing nursing without prayer and without praying before a shift, without praying before a difficult case or after,” Hunsaker says.

Singing the Healer’s Art

Singing the Healer’s Art

By Dr. Sheri Palmer, Teaching Professor

Although I have taken students many years to Ecuador, a few experiences will always be in my memory.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to take one of the first groups of nursing students from the United States to the only welfare psychiatric hospital in Ecuador. After visiting the psychiatric hospital for the first time, my feelings were mixed with sadness and emotion.  The complex of buildings was old and vast. Cement walls and chain link were prominent features throughout the facility.

We were shown where the younger male patients were, and it was indicated that“over here” were the “forgotten” patients, those who had been left at the hospital many years ago by their families. Patients were everywhere in their tattered, drab clothing; however, they were clean.  Most had no shoes, but of course I had to remind myself we are at the equator.  A large part of their living occurs outside as the weather is temperate most of the year.  I didn’t worry for their physical well-being (after all it was dinner time, and the workers were busy setting up the long tables for the meal, a soup with a big plate of rice).

We passed through ward after ward of patients sitting or standing around the premises.  Sometimes we were led on one side of the chain link fence to see the patients on the other side, and other times we were led inside the wards where we were surrounded by patients.

As we were a large group of North Americans, we drew much attention.  I had the uneasy feeling of being on display, yet ironically, I felt that the patients might also feel like they were on display.  Many times some of the patients would come up to us for a handshake or a hug.  Students were caught off guard by this and many were reticent to touch.  As I hugged and shook hands with as many patients as I could, many students also felt more at ease in saying hello and giving of themselves to the patients. Our tour complete, we passed through the gate to the other side and piled in our van.  The mood was somber and quiet.  Everyone was lost in thought.  Here we were in Ecuador with such high hopes of helping all the sick and infirm, yet we were overwhelmed with feelings of despair.  I felt the Spirit tell me that in this circumstance we could heal with singing, and not just any songs; they needed to be songs of faith and love about Christ and His mission to earth.

The students agreed readily with the idea. Permission to visit the hospital the next Sunday was granted.  We spent the week singing and practicing heartily in the van wherever we went.  Favorite songs were chosen, parts were practiced, and we were ready. The next Sunday afternoon we came again to the psychiatric hospital ready to sing!

We sang two or three hymns in each building. The long drab cement walls provided excellent acoustics. The students’ voices blended beautifully and the hymns seemed even more beautiful in Spanish.  Many patients came over and sat on the ground in front of us, some came to stand by us and sing, and some even knelt with hands together in prayer.  We felt like angels.  The Spirit was strong.  The sweet nuns who guided us around were amazed at many of the songs we sang. Upon leaving each ward, hugs and handshakes were freely given by the students.  We all felt love in our hearts for these patients.

The last ward we visited was the “Children’s Ward.”  We didn’t have the chance to visit this one previously, so I was hoping this would not be a shock for the students.  After walking amongst various bed-ridden children, who were obviously not only mentally handicapped but very physically handicapped, my heart was breaking. I was wishing we had something more to give. We stood in our little semi-circle and started to sing “I am a Child of God.”

One of the patients, a teenager, started getting really excited and swinging her arms, hopping up and down, and screaming.  My first thought was that this was a mental patient who was excited.  But after the nuns helped calm her down, it was apparent the girl was also crying and saying, “I know this song, I know this song!” Two of the students brought the girl into our little choir circle and we all sang the song together. Many of us had tears flowing down our cheeks. We had found a child of faith within these cement walls of the psychiatric hospital! We finished our little repertoire of hymns, and had to tear ourselves away from our new-found friend.

Again, upon passing through the gate and piling in our van, the mood was somber, but reflective. The spirit had helped us touch and heal others in a place where we weren’t sure how it could be possible. We were able to “Sing the Healer’s Art” in Ecuador.