Category Archives: Inspiring

Will You Sing Me a Song?

As a part of the 50th anniversary of the BYU College of Nursing, a book was compiled called “The Healer’s Art: 50 stories for 50 years.” It has been 15 years since this book was first published and these stories were shared. We plan to regularly post selections from this book to help each of us remember and cherish the experiences of nursing and learning the Healer’s art. 

Will You Sing Me a Song?

Angela Williams

As a beginning nursing student with no previous medical background, I was determined to learn the ins and outs of every procedure and do an absolutely perfect job at clinical. My first and second days of clinical went all right and I gained a little more confidence. During the second week of clinical, I was determined to get some new nursing skills down and spent the day concentrating on the new world I was discovering at the hospital.

I was assigned to a basic Med-Surg floor and had one patient, an elderly gentleman, who was recovering from surgery. He was doing well and my duties were not that difficult, now that I look back, but it was a whole new world to me at the time. I was so nervous about doing something wrong that I focused more on what I had to do than on the patient himself. Each time I left the room, I would ask the patient if there was anything I could do for him. He smiled and answered, “Can you sing me a song?”

I took his request as a joke because who in the world would really want to hear me sing? Smiling back at him, I would respond, “Now, you really don’t want to make your ears sick too!”

He would smile at me and say nothing else as I went about my business. The next day the same gentleman was my patient. I went in and did my assessment as efficiently as possible, trying to concentrate on what I was supposed to be looking for and how exactly I would chart it. Again came the question, “Can you sing me a song?” and again the response, “You don’t really want to hear me sing.”

Later, while I was concentrating on making sure his medication dosages were right and that he swallowed all the pills, came the question, “How about a song?” with only a smile at my response. The day continued like this until lunchtime, when another nursing student came with me to deliver his lunch tray and to do the midday assessment. As I focused on finding his pedal pulses and deciding whether to grade them as a l+ or 2+ the same question came: “Do you have a song for me yet?”

But this time the response was different. As I was about to smile and laugh off his request, the other student nurse responded: “I think we can handle that. We’ll get some of the other students so you can have a real choir and we’ll sing you a song later this afternoon before we leave.”

His smile grew and I kept thinking, “Can we really sing him a song? That doesn’t seem very nurse-like.”

During post conference my friend recruited several students to join us in singing my patient a hymn. We picked the song “I Need Thee Every Hour” and, armed with a couple of hymnbooks, we stood at the end of his bed and sang him his song:

I need thee every hour, In joy or pain.

Come quickly and abide, Or life is vain.

I need thee, oh, I need thee;

Ev’ry hour I need thee!

Oh, bless me now, my Savior;

I come to thee!

(Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Hymn #98, 1985)

As the last note rang clear, we looked at each other and saw tears in everyone’s eyes. The patient took a deep breath and said, “That’s the best medicine I’ve gotten at this hospital yet.”

I left the hospital that day with one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in nursing school, and to my surprise, found that it had nothing to do with assessments, procedures, or medications. It was that I, as a nurse, could take the time to participate in the healing of someone’s heart or soul. This is, unlike what I originally thought, part of the nurse’s domain. The trick, I discovered, is to really listen to my patients. They may not know what they need on the medical level, but they will convey what they need from you on the spiritual level. I am grateful that my friend knew that already and was willing to listen to my patient when I was too focused on my own learning to do what he really needed. Being a new nursing student, I found myself focused more on my learning rather than on truly caring for my patient. My friend took the time to listen and gave me a true example of The Healer’s Art.


Faculty Spotlight: Debra A. Mills

From the Fall 2017 magazine. See more at


Humbly Serving in the Background

There, in the background, a persistent woman keeps the college running. Associate teaching professor Debra Ann “Debbie” Mills (BS ’82, MS ’89), RN, MS, CNE, is the faculty member who helps make a nursing student’s life run smoothly. She organizes each semester’s class schedule, supervises the standardized testing, arranges a calendar for the ATI Nursing Education Program, and orders supplies. She trains faculty members to understand test results, works with the clinical agencies, and ensures that students pick up their books—all to help students fulfill their potential in learning the Healer’s art.

While on campus, Mills is the undergraduate program coordinator and a facilitator for her colleagues.

However, as soon as she leaves, she is an avid exerciser.

She regularly completes P90X, R.I.P.P.E.D., kickboxing, weightlifting, U-JAM Fitness, water aerobics, and TRX Endurance routines. She tries to be physically active for two hours a day and considers exercising her second job.

If you have met Mills, you will know she is a petite, gentle lady and does not seem to fit the mold of an aggressive gym rat. However, rumor has it that one day she got so caught up in her hard-hitting sets and reps that she broke the nose of her sparring partner.

Mills decided to become a nurse during her senior year of high school after having an opportunity to talk with a neighbor who served as a naval nurse.

After graduation she attended Ricks College to pursue a nursing degree. There she had the opportunity to learn in a classroom and a hospital. At that time there was no lab, so the nurses learned by watching filmstrips and practicing on each other.

The start to her nursing education had a few bumps. From not being able to find a pulse to being told to go home, Mills faced many discouraging challenges. However, she overcame them in a defining moment that concreted her desire to become a nurse.

The day after being told that she was not smart enough to be a nurse, Mills returned to the same hospital but under the direction of a different supervisor. This manager assigned her to care for a small senior woman who soiled herself daily. Mills’s first thought was, “You must be miserable—let me get you cleaned up.” So she did. She took care of this patient, cleaning her up and trying to make her as comfortable as possible.

However, giving such quality care made Mills late in giving some medication. She was certain the nurses would be upset. However, as she was leaving the floor that day, the unit manager stopped and said, “Thank you for taking care of one of God’s children.” At this point Mills knew she was going to be a nurse. It would be hard, but it would be worth it.

Mills worked in different places— Primary Children’s Hospital and Salt Lake Community College, to name a few—before finding a home at the Y in 1982. After receiving her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the BYU College of Nursing, she accepted an offer to teach there and has been helping students and faculty ever since.

Mills’s list of accomplishments is extensive: a decade as baccalaureate studies coordinator, five years as a MORE evaluator to review evidenced-based nursing articles with a pediatric education focus, and 21 years as a college representative for the Primary Children’s Hospital Consortium.

She is a Utah State Board of Nursing committee member, was nominated for a 2005 Excellence in Pediatric Nursing Education Award from the Society of Pediatric Nurses, and was a 2002 recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Award from the Utah Nurses Association.

Mills is a great example of persistence, diligence, and hope.

Her experiences as a student help her to advise and encourage those students who are struggling as well as those who are exceeding expectations. From U-JAM to helping a student in a jam, Mills does it all so that people, including herself, find success

Alumni Perspectives


From the Fall 2017 magazine. See more at


My Career as an Adrenaline Junkie

I was a graduate in the fourth graduating class of our great college of nursing. I am an adrenaline junkie and had a fabulous 50-year career as a certified emergency nurse and mobile intensive care nurse. I had the pleasure of precepting many RNs and paramedics and saved many lives with the help of the Holy Ghost and the educational start at BYU.

Eleanore Hacking Scott (BS ’59)

Trinity Center, CA


A Lifesaving Education

As I was submitting the top three choices for my nursing capstone, I felt like I should put med/surg down as my first choice, even though I wasn’t particularly interested in that area. I was able to create a relationship with the med/surg director where I was placed and got hired there after graduation. The director was fantastic to work with, and after a few months of being there, I had my second baby. She let me come back to work PRN status and work just one shift per week, which was perfect for my family.

On Christmas Eve that year, my grandpa had a horrible, racking cough. He sounded just like the many pneumonia patients I had taken care of on the med/surg unit over the last year. He had been sick for a while but had refused to go to the doctor. Even that night as I talked to him, he wasn’t willing to seek medical help.

I talked to my mom and grandma and told them that I took care of lots of pneumonia patients in the hospital and that I thought they should take him in. They went to the ER, where the doctor diagnosed him with pneumonia and told them that they’d “gotten him there in time.” The doctor seemed to think that if they hadn’t brought him in that night, he would have died.

I’m so grateful for my nursing education and career that enabled me to save my grandpa’s life.

Julie Jacobs Taggart (BS ’07)

Orem, UT

College of Nursing Masterpiece Celebrates 25th Anniversary

Few BYU students may realize that one of the most iconic paintings on campus is celebrating its 25th anniversary this month. That’s because they can’t find this masterpiece in any traditional Museum of Art gallery or HFAC display, but in the nursing student lounge on the first floor of the Spencer W. Kimball Tower.

In 1992, the BYU College of Nursing commissioned former BYU professor Trevor Southey to paint a work entitled “I Would Learn the Healer’s Art.” The four-by-six foot oil on canvas commemorated the 40th anniversary of the College. The painting’s inspiration came from a line from the hymn, “Lord, I Would Follow Thee” that has become a motto for the College: “I would be my brother’s keeper; I would learn the healer’s art.”


Southey wanted the painting to capture an intimate moment of healing between nurses and patients. He experimented with several different ideas in his sketches and finally decided to leave the patient resting peacefully, as the nurse prepares to care for her charge. Her arms are delicately out-stretched, ready to practice the Healer’s Art.

“I really love this painting not only because of its beauty, but also because of the symbolism it contains,” dean and professor Dr. Patricia Ravert shares.

Trevor Southey Healers Art

“I Would Learn the Healer’s Art” contains three specific symbols that form an inverted triangle within the painting. The red square on the right side of the painting represents blood and the human experience. Opposite the square is a golden sphere that symbolizes the spirit and things of eternity. At the bottom of the painting is an eternal flame, a tribute to the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale.

“I think ‘I Would Learn the Healer’s Art’ does a great job of showing what it means to be compassionate,” observes nursing student McKenna Warren. “That’s something that we try to learn, not only as nursing students, but also as disciples of Jesus Christ.”

For more information, watch this video: I Would Learn The Healer’s Art

A Trip They’ll Never Forget: Nursing Students Visit The Holy Land

With clinicals, Public and Global Health trips, and immense loads of homework, BYU College of Nursing students keep themselves busy. The idea of doing a non-nursing study abroad trip may seem out of the question for some, but eight nursing students lived the dream when they studied at the BYU Jerusalem Center this past summer.

Ironically, the students did not coordinate between themselves to go. It was mostly spontaneous decision-making by each student.

“It was just one day in class I was like, ‘You know, I think I really want to go to Jerusalem,’” Hailey Coburn, a fourth-semester student, says.

“None of us planned to go together, but we always found each other,” fourth-semester Jessica Butterfield says. Some, such as third-semester student Maggie Gunn, had friends or family who had attended before and highly recommended the experience.

Upon arrival to Jerusalem, the students realized that they were not in Provo anymore.

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Maggie Gunn in front of the Dome of the Rock

“It was unlike any country I’ve ever been to in my life, and that’s saying a lot because I’ve been to a lot of countries,” says globetrotting fourth-semester student Ashley Dyer, who has visited 23 countries.

“One of my favorite parts was walking through the Old City—you could smell all the spices and they always had their olives or their pickles,” Shannon Beech, fourth-semester, says.

The immense diversity of Jerusalem was a defining feature of the trip for most of the students, who appreciated being able to learn from the different people and cultures of the city.

“It was an absolutely incredible experience to be there and understand the culture a little bit better,” Gunn says.

“One thing that I learned from going there is that even more important than the sites is the people,” Coburn says. “There are some of the nicest people over there.” Students routinely were welcomed by locals and invited to participate in communal dancing and other activities. Each culture brought something new that the students were able to learn about and respect—for example, the students visited churches, a mosque, and a synagogue.

“It was really cool learning about the different cultures because I haven’t really been very familiar with Jewish or Muslim culture before, and I think that’s really going to help me in the future,” Dyer says.

The devotion of the adherents of the various religions in Jerusalem also struck a chord with the nursing students.

“When you think of the Middle East, everyone thinks about tension and violence,” Dyer says. “I mean, there was some violence going on, but it was definitely a lot more peaceful than I expected, and a lot more spiritual, both from my religion and other people’s religions as well. People are so dedicated to their faith and it really inspired me.”

“They all lived for a purpose,” Beech says. “That’s something that really hit home with me.”


BYU Jerusalem students in traditional clothing

Life in the Jerusalem Center was a mix of hectic and spiritual.

“Something about the Jerusalem center is that everything changes—nothing is consistent,” Butterfield explains. “Usually five days a week we have class and our class schedule is not consistent.”

Students took classes on the Old and New Testaments, Palestinian history, local languages, and the different religions of the region. In between classes, students could relax in the lounge, visit local sights, or get food at the Center cafeteria. Butterfield noted that one of the best parts about the trip was not having to cook a meal for three-and-a-half months.

“Usually Mondays were our field trip days,” second semester student Katie Glaus says. Field trips could be within Jerusalem or farther abroad. During the semester, students visited Galilee, Jordan, and Greece on extended trips.

Adventures abounded during the students’ stay. They floated in the Dead Sea, canoed down the Jordan River, rode camels, visited the ruins of Petra in Jordan, climbed rickety towers in Greece, and explored old tunnels in Jerusalem.


Jessica Butterfield in front of Petra in Jordan

One of the most important parts of the trip, however, was the bonding that occurred between the students. Several of them were assigned as visiting teachers to each other, and they all came closer as they struggled through the immense workload of the Center. Of course, the conversations would come frequently come back to nursing.

“Since I’m in a lower semester, I would always ask questions about the next semester,” Glaus says. “I would just always go to them for advice with nursing stuff.”

“I feel like there’s a special connection between us now,” Coburn says.

The students were impacted spiritually as well. Each had special experiences that contributed to both their spiritual growth and their nursing abilities.

“One thing that was very special about to the Holy Land was that we were able to go see the sights where Christ healed people,” says Dyer. Visiting these sights taught the students about charity and truly caring for patients the way Jesus Christ did.

“I think being there and also studying the life of the Savior while I was there and what He did for the people just helped me to be more loving and helped me to see the bigger picture,” Glaus says.


Butterfield in Greece

Back in Provo, the students have to adjust to not hearing the Islamic call to prayer five times a day and not having cheap falafel (common street food in Jerusalem) within walking distance of their classes. However, the impact of the trip continues to be felt, and the students are confident that their nursing careers have been positively influenced by the trip.

“I feel like one of the cool things about this experience is that it’s still affecting me as I come back to normal life,” Butterfield says.



Posing in traditional clothing


Kosher McDonald’s


Climbing to Petra


Dyer in front of the tomb of Lazarus


Glaus and Dyer in front of Petra

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Floating in the Dead Sea

Photos courtesy of Maggie Gunn, Jessica Butterfield, and Ashley Dyer

At the Nexus of Missionary, Professor, and Nurse

Taking a year off work to go to a tropical paradise sounds fanciful to most people, but assistant teaching professor Debbie Edmunds lived that dream when she and her husband departed BYU for the sandy shores of Fiji on a LDS mission. Not only did Edmunds get to apply her skills as a mission nurse specialist, but she also had the opportunity to guide BYU nursing students in an international clinical practicum.

“I just felt like the time was right,” Edmunds says when talking about her decision to leave on the mission, which lasted from June 2016-June 2017. Due to Edmunds’ skills as a nurse, the mission president in Fiji arranged for the couple to serve there, with her as the mission nurse and her husband as the mission financial secretary.

“I helped them take good care of themselves and to always have some basic supplies,” she says. Her work was cut out for her—the missionaries were spread across six islands and experienced various problems related to the tropical climate. There were also missionary mental health issues and anxiety problems that she had to address, a task for which she had been well prepared from teaching Type A nursing students.

“It was a great thing for me because I’ve been very focused on women’s health nursing, but now I’m with a majority of young elders,” she says. “It was nice to refresh my nursing skills, using them in a generalized way rather than for such a specific thing like maternity.”


Despite the constant workload, Edmunds always found something to enjoy during her mission, whether it was the constant presence of the ocean, the pleasant climate, or the warm friendliness of the Fijian people. She also found herself learning important lessons that she would bring back to BYU.

“I think it really reinforced my testimony of how the Lord loves all of His children and has a plan for all of His children,” Edmund says, “Each student here is on his or her own journey. Each missionary was on his or her own journey. Your job when you’re in a role of teaching, or in a role as we were as a senior couple, is to nurture, to support, to encourage, and to be the Lord’s hands.”

BYU was never far from Edmunds. In fact, BYU came to her in the form of a Public and Global Health Nursing course led by associate teaching professor Dr. Shelly Reed that was en route to Tonga.

During their five-day visit, Edmunds took the group to a nursing school, healthcare facilities, and local villages where they took blood pressure and glucose readings. They also visited cultural sites and stayed in the LDS temple patron housing.

“I feel that our time in Fiji complemented our experiences in Tonga, providing comparisons and contrasts that enhanced our knowledge of Pacific Islanders and their culture and health care practices,” Reed says. “By going to Fiji, we learned inter-culture variations for Pacific Islanders, something that we would have not learned visiting just one Islander nation.”

Back at BYU, Edmunds is both trying to adjust to a much drier climate and hoping that the contacts she made in Fiji may lay the groundwork for a Public and Global Health clinical practicum in that country.

“It would be nice for me to go back and be able to share those things with students because there is plenty to do in Fiji,” she says.


Edmunds with various missionaries

I Would Learn The Healer’s Art

As a part of the 50th anniversary of the BYU College of Nursing, a book was compiled called “The Healer’s Art: 50 stories for 50 years.” It has been 15 years since this book was first published and these stories were shared. We plan to regularly post selections from this book to help each of us remember and cherish the experiences of nursing and learning the Healer’s art. 

I Would Learn The Healer’s Art

Judy Malzahn Ellsworth

Working in the Operating Room at Fairfax Hospital in Northern Virginia meant never having a dull moment.  Fairfax Hospital is just blocks off the western end of the Washington D.C. Beltway on the Virginia side.  Each day brought new challenges, and we had to be ready for anything.

I was working as the Assistant Head Nurse in charge of the Operating Room from 4:00 pm until midnight every day.  One Sunday afternoon I got a call from the delivery room telling me that they had a very serious situation.  A mother who had just delivered was hemorrhaging and they were unable to control it…did we have an operating room available?  We had four rooms running, and that was the maximum we could run that afternoon.  I told them I would call them right back.

I talked with Anesthesia, and we decided that I could scrub the case, and we would pull a circulator from a case that would be finishing within the hour to circulate for me, if Delivery would send an RN down to circulate in the ‘easy’ room.  Arrangements were made with the Critical Care Supervisor to man the OR desk, and the go-ahead was given for the case to proceed.

I rushed to pull the case, scrub, and set up the room.  While I was busy, the doctors brought the anesthetized patient into the room and prepped her for abdominal surgery. I put all the drapes on a draping table and told them they were on their own, as I was still opening instruments and setting up the Mayo. By the time I brought my Mayo to the field, I had gowned and gloved a doctor and two residents, and the patient was fully draped and ready to go.

The case was truly a serious situation.  This was in the days before the ‘Bovie’, and we clamped and tied each bleeder.  Every time a bleeder was clamped, the clamp acted like a hot knife going through butter.  We changed to using a needle to just tie off the bleeders.  This didn’t work any better.  We packed her abdomen and waited to see if the bleeders would clot off.  This was not successful.  The situation was getting desperate.

I was feeling heartsick at our seemingly helpless situation.  I knew this particular doctor was not one that any of us would refer anyone to, and I knew we needed help.  I felt like the patient was my sister, and I could feel the tears beginning to sting my eyes.  I was the charge nurse, and I was scrubbed in the case and unable to call for anyone to come to help us.  While we were waiting to see if packing the abdomen was going to be successful, I turned to my back table, closed my eyes and pleaded with Heavenly Father to please send someone quickly, as this new mother needed more help than this physician was able to give her.

About 10 minutes later the door to the operating room opened slightly and the Chief of OB/Gyn peeked inside.  He said he’d been out on a Sunday drive with his boys, and he felt like he needed to stop in at the hospital to see how everything was going.  The doctor who was operating explained the situation, but said he thought he had everything under control.  The Chief asked if he thought he could use another hand, to which the doctor said, “No!”  I was shocked, and I looked at the Chief and said, “I have an extra gown here, what size gloves do you wear?”  (He later told me the look in my eyes told him he’d better start scrubbing STAT!)

We worked for three more hours, with the Chief eventually taking over the case.  The patient was saved, and my grateful heart said several prayers of thanksgiving while we were working.

As we were finishing the case, the doctor said that he was so happy that we had been able to save her.  She was LDS and this was her eighth child.  I said to him, “Will you tell her that I am also a Mormon, and I was her nurse during her surgery?”

When the patient was taken to the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (Recovery Room), I realized that the doctors and circulator had forgotten to take her chart with them.  I picked the chart up and started to take it to PACU when I read the nameplate of the patient.  Imagine my shock when I realized that my impressions during the surgery of this being “my sister” were correct.  She had been my visiting teaching companion when we both lived in Seattle, Washington several years before!  Neither one of us knew that we were now both living in the Washington, D.C. area.

I called up to the Delivery Room and asked for her husband to come down to the Recovery Room.  When he arrived, I asked him if he had his consecrated oil with him.  He did, and he had a friend with him.  I arranged for them to give his wife a blessing.

I am grateful that not only was I privileged to learn The Healer’s Art at the Lord’s university, but that I was also taught to listen to the promptings of the Spirit and act accordingly.  Being a BYU graduate has been an honor, and it has allowed me many missionary opportunities.  Being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been an enormous blessing to me personally, and to all those who have been entrusted to my care.