Category Archives: Inspiring

The Stillborn

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. 

 

The Stillborn

Tyrone Brown

We often think of the nurse who has The Healer’s Art, but on this particular day, it was two patients that touched my heart. Three years ago, my life plan took a dramatic change. I was a football player for Brigham Young University, a nationally ranked division I team. Like many players, I had the dream of playing in the National Football League. During my sophomore year I suffered an injury that caused two herniated discs in my lower back and ended my career as a football player. Not only was my dream cut short, it was completely obliterated. Despite this unfortunate event, I was a firm believer that other doors will open when one closes.

I had a close friend who encouraged me to go into nursing. I courageously, and with an extreme alteration to my ego, acted upon his advice! I applied to and was accepted into the nursing program at BYU.

After about half a year in the program I was going into the clinical rotation that I dreaded most: Labor and delivery. This is where my story begins. You see, I’m six-foot-three, male, muscular, African American, and bald (by choice). Sometimes I see myself in the mirror and I get scared! I was terrified that the patients and other nurses would be so afraid of me, they would ask me to leave the room or wait outside the door during my time there. Most of all I thought, “How am I, a man, going to offer encouragement and support to a woman when I have no clue what it is like to be pregnant and in labor?” I thought my whole time there was going to be miserable and a waste of time.

Ironically, this turned out not to be the case at all; it turned out to be one of my most memorable rotations as a nursing student. It was during this rotation that I had an experience that would expand my perspective and outlook on life, for it was this experience that taught me what the Healer’s Art is all about.

On this particular day, I was assigned to work with a nurse who would be helping a mother and her family recover physically and spiritually after giving birth to a stillborn that morning. When we walked in the room to introduce ourselves, a Catholic priest was there giving the baby a blessing. The baby was in the arms of a young boy who was lying down asleep on a bed. I later learned that this young boy had cried himself to sleep with his baby brother in his arms. The room was dark and smelled of blood and body fluids. The father was in the bathroom.

We learned from the night shift nurse that the father had passed out when the baby was born. The mother was lying in bed with the underlying sheets covered in blood. She was sad, disappointed, and confused. This would have been her eighth child. She was diagnosed with chronic hypertension and had had poor prenatal care.  The baby had apparently been dead for a month because upon her admission to the hospital she reported no fetal movement for about this length of time.

Finally, the priest left the room and then the nurse also left to get a consent form to have an autopsy performed, so it was me alone with this family. I sat beside the father as he held his baby boy in his arms. I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything at all; I just put my hands on his shoulder. The nurse returned to the room with the consent form. The father then asked me if I could hold the baby while he signed the papers. It was a moment in time that I will never forget.  There was not the usual movement, crying, or opening of the mouth and eyes. There was blood around the baby’s mouth, eyes, and on his head. Vernix was still around his arms and legs. A million thoughts rushed in my mind. I thought about what this little boy’s spirit would have been like. I thought about all the fun things he would miss out on in life, like learning how to throw a baseball or ride a bike or his first kiss.

The nurse and I finished helping this family. We switched the mother to another bed. We took the baby to the morgue. I learned all about the process and the extended amount of paper work that must be done in these terrible situations.

Later that day as I was sitting at the nurses station watching the fetal monitor of a new patient, one of the nurses walked by with a newborn and asked me if I would hold the baby while she finished getting a few things together. As I held this live and active newborn in my arms, I thought about my earlier experience. I could feel the heartbeat of this new baby boy I was now holding. He opened his mouth wide and moved his arms and body. I couldn’t help but smile and feel love for this precious gift of life. My troubled heart was becoming mended.

The first time I held a baby in Labor and delivery was when I held the stillborn. The second time was later that day when I held the live newborn. In just one day I saw and felt the whole spectrum of the good and bad in Labor and delivery.

You see, most of the time we think of the nurse as the one who has The Healer’s Art, but on this day it was these two tiny little babies that opened my heart and touched it forever. Who knows, maybe it was part of this little stillborn’s mission to come to earth and touch my life. I will never forget him. He will always remain close to my heart. Wow, the children—no wonder Jesus loved them so much. Theirs is truly the kingdom of Heaven.

Nursing Student Works to Raise Money to Combat Childhood Cancer and Honor His Grandfather

BYU College of Nursing student James Reinhardt’s grandfather has always been a positive example for him. He loves admiring his grandfather’s woodwork in the handmade clock in the family house, and he describes the former elementary school teacher as a peacemaker and a critical influence in the life of Reinhardt’s father.

There is only one catch: Reinhardt has never met him. His grandfather died of cancer in 1991, but his legacy lives on. That legacy is inspiring Reinhardt to participate in the Great Cycling Challenge USA fundraiser this June, where he will be biking hundreds of miles to raise money to combat childhood cancer.

“I saw it on Facebook, of all places,” Reinhardt says of the event. “It’s essentially where people across the nation will ride for the fight against cancer.” For the challenge, riders pledge to ride a certain number of miles, and they recruit friends and family to donate either by each mile or in a lump sum. Reinhardt hopes to reach $500 by the end of the month.

52233

Reinhardt’s grandfather, who passed away from cancer in 1991

To complete the challenge, Reinhardt is using a bike that actually belonged to his father while he was in college, and his grandfather’s story drives him to reach the 200-mile goal he has set.

“It’s cool to me to be riding my dad’s bike in honor of his dad who passed from cancer because we all think we’re going to be 100 and that you’re going to be able to see your great grandkids,” he says. “Well, he has to see them from the other side of the veil. That would be pretty cool if we could get more and more research so people could expect to live past their retirement age.”

The Great Cycle Challenge USA’s website says that its riders have gone 3,397,199 miles over the past two years and have raised $4,717,515 for cancer research. Riders often offer incentives to donors to contribute, and Reinhardt is considering letting the highest donor choose a costume for him to wear the last week of June.

Anyone who wishes to support Reinhardt can go to his rider page to donate (https://greatcyclechallenge.com/Riders/JamesReinhardt). Others who want to be riders can go to the Great Cycle Challenge USA website and sign up.

Learning the Truth Behind 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. 

Learning the Truth Behind The Healer’s Art

Robyn Carlsen

When I began college, choosing a major was hard because I found it unfathomable to have to decide on that one thing I enjoyed enough to commit to for the rest of my life. When I finally chose nursing and began the prerequisites, it made so much sense. I had been sick much of my life with asthma, allergies, kidney stones, and infections; I felt there was no one better to empathize with those in pain. After all, what more could an eighteen year old girl go through? I had been in the hospital more times than all my known acquaintances combined. When I began the nursing program, I was confident in the hospital setting, with the medical terms, and with the seemingly complicated medical technology. I was going to be able to master this profession. I guess I could say I was “prepared” many years before! All of my confident empathy and nonchalance regarding patients vanished one term. It forever changed how I thought about myself and how I interacted with others.

During an oncology nursing elective, I arrived at the children’s hospital outpatient oncology clinic prepared to learn as much as I could about childhood cancer. We saw the first patient around 8:00 am and prepared him to see the doctor and answer any questions. Matt and his mother were waiting inside one of the exam rooms. The nurse had prepared me to see the patient by telling me about the patient’s disease, history, and reason for the visit while walking to the room. Matt was a seven year old who had been diagnosed with Leukemia over a year ago. It had gone into remission, only to be rediscovered a month ago. At the beginning of every patient’s new treatment cycle, they were given a treatment calendar that displayed all the different injections, chemotherapy, and radiation appointments scattered over the next few weeks.

As I went over all of the appointments with Matt and his mother, something sprang alive inside me. Big eyes, scrapes on his knees, and dirty hands all contributed to the picture worthy of a Saturday Evening Post cover. Matt was old enough to know what was happening to his young body. He had not yet had a chance to attend school without this diagnoses hanging over his head. He was learning to read from the books that were stacked next to the IV poles and learning to tell time from the clocks that hung over his chemotherapy. It was an uncertain future for a boy who had barely had time to dream, but still had large ones.

I began to think about all the things he needed and how little my nursing knowledge and hospital experience mattered to this boy with a potentially fatal disease. I knew my controlled asthma, antibiotics, and dreams for the future were not the things that were going to enable me to sympathize with and help these patients. There was nothing I had experienced that would compare to the courage this boy was already required to show the world because of the harsh regular treatments he had to endure and unsure future he looked forward to.

As a student, I had extra time to spend with patients, and I quickly learned pediatric patients loved to play games. I played checkers with him to pass the time. When waiting for a doctor or for a treatment to end, it always seemed like the minutes stretched on for days. I never was very good at checkers and when he beat me for the second time in a row, I smiled and threw up my hands in defeat, “Why do I try playing against a master? You are just too good. Tell me your secrets!” He giggled and looked at me innocently while setting up the checkers for another triumph. We played until his mother got back from lunch, the treatment was over, and he had to leave. I waved goodbye and was rewarded with a blue smile – the product of a large sucker he was given.

I knew the things I had previously relied on to give me the credentials needed to survive nursing heartache and triumph day after day did not include a special insight into hospitalization. I wanted all the patients who were facing the unknown to know that although I had not experienced the many things they were dealing with, I did have something more than understanding: I had love.

The Honor of Being a Nurse

This is one of the speeches from the recent convocation ceremony for the BYU College of Nursing, given by Aubrey Sandberg.

My friends, congratulations! We made it to graduation! We survived clinicals, pre & post assessments, tests, simulations, pass-offs, 5 am drives to Salt Lake, crazy amounts of traffic, care plans and NCLEX questions. We’ve pushed through blood, sweat, tears and all the other bodily fluids found at clinical. We’ve seen birth and death and everything in between and we made it! And for some of us that is a literal miracle. Thanks to our cohort, amazing professors, family and friends—we are here today. But most of all it is thanks to our Savior and His love and grace.

Many of you who know me know that I am obsessed with grace. My two mottos in life are “B is for Balance”—which is a speech for another day—and “Grace is Real.” Like many of you, I have been battling some intense health challenges all throughout the Nursing Program, and I know that it is only through His grace that I am literally standing here today. I really do love our nursing theme, “I would learn the Healer’s art” and the song Lord, I Would Follow Thee. I especially love the first verse where it talks about taking the time to help others and “finding strength beyond our own” as we strive to do so. I am a personal witness that this literal strength and help – or grace – is real and I am so grateful for my Savior because of it.

President Uchtdorf said, “When I think of the Savior, I often picture Him with hands outstretched, reaching out to comfort, heal, bless, and love.” And I, like many of you, have been a recipient of that comfort, healing and love. My favorite chapter in the Book of Mormon is 3 Nephi 17, when Christ is visiting the Americas and heals the sick and blesses the children.

Christ is about to leave for the night when he sees how sad the people look and says, “Have ye any that are sick among you? Bring them hither. Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy… [The Savior] did heal them every one.”

Sister Esplin quoted this passage in her April 2016 talk. She explains  how wonderful it will be when Christ comes again and how she imagines it will be very similar to this passage of scripture.  However, she said until He comes again “He asks us to be His hands.” President Uchtdorf likewise said, “As we emulate the Savior’s perfect example of love and service our hands become His hands”

As nurses, we have the unique opportunity to be instruments in the Hands of the Master Healer.  In the New Testament, most of the Savior’s time and miracles were spent healing others. We have that same opportunity today. While it is a daunting and emotional task at times, it is so rewarding. In Sister Esplin’s talk she said, “Don’t think of your task as a burden, think of it as an opportunity to learn what love really is.”

I have noticed there is a 100% correlation in my happiness/fulfillment as a nurse and how close I am to the Savior. On days where I am distant from Him for whatever reason, I find myself burned out. And nursing is hard! Besides the 13-hour shifts, holidays, weekends and nights-it is emotionally draining. It is hard to stand there when a patient is diagnosed with terminal cancer, it is painful to listen to children talk about abuse, we naturally ache when a woman is sobbing about her miscarriage and her fears about never being able to have children. And the only way I have been able to get through those emotional times is through the Savior. I love the quote from Preach My Gospel that says, “All that is unfair about life will be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”

As nurses we see a lot of the unfair. However, we also see a lot of the joy: a mother’s face when you place her newborn in her arms, the look of relief on family member’s face when a surgery goes well, the day a NICU baby finally gets to go home, and the list goes on and on.

One specific example from my life happened when a patient got to ring the bell after cancer treatment. I did my capstone rotation on the Cancer/Transplant Unit at Primary Children’s and it definitely had its shares of ups and downs. However, one of the most rewarding experiences is after a child finishes their cancer treatment they get to ring a bell before they go home. I was there one day when a patient got to leave after a bone marrow transplant. This particular patient had relapsed and her prognosis did not look good. However, after months of being in the hospital, she finally was healthy enough to go home. So, when her mom made an announcement that she was going to ring the bell everyone came! Her extended family, the clinic employees, the pharmacist, the team of doctors, every nurse and tech and a lot of families on the unit. The hall was packed! She thanked everybody for coming and for our help, we sang her a song and she got to ring the bell three times loudly. Sobbing she immediately ran to her primary nurse and doctor they hugged her for a long time. I hardly knew the patient but I was sobbing too! It was one of the most rewarding and spiritual experiences of my life. I am grateful for both the hard and rewarding moments in our career because they provide us the opportunity to stay close to our Savior and maintain an eternal perspective in life.

One of my favorite quotes about nursing is by Thom Dick. He said, “You are going to be there when a lot of people are born. You are going to be there when a lot of people die. Such moments are regarded as sacred and private, made special by a divine presence. What an honor it is to be a nurse.”

I am so grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of BYU’s Nursing Program. I truly do believe it is an honor to be a nurse. I know if Christ was here, He would spend time healing and serving the sick. But as Sister Esplin says, “For now, He asks us to be His hands.”

Thank you.

Aubrey Sandberg

The Day the ICU Stood Still

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. 

“The Day the ICU Stood Still”

Kent D. Blad

 

Mr. P was a 70-year-old Veteran of World War II.  He came to our hospital in need of treatment for recently diagnosed cancer of the esophagus.  After discussion with the family and physicians, the decision was made to take the patient to surgery to complete an esophagogastrectomy. Upon completion of his surgery, Mr. P returned to the Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU) for his post-operative care.  Mr. P’s wife and children spent many hours at his bedside, holding hands, praying, and offering words of encouragement to their recovering husband and father. Joy and smiles were seen when they witnessed his seemingly uneventful wakening from anesthesia and recovery in those first few days following surgery.  Mr. P was a delightful and pleasant individual who reciprocated his love for his family and shared his appreciation for their support on his behalf.

Mr. P’s condition held steady for little less than a week in the SICU, when the discovery was made that Mr. P was not tolerating his tube feedings well.  He complained of nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, and just not feeling well.  The decision was made to discontinue his tube feedings and begin total parenteral nutrition through his intravenous (IV) catheter.  After a week’s trial of this and other treatments, Mr. P’s condition worsened.  The family shared a great deal of concern with the physician and staff, as they worried about his unusual behavior of not being so cheerful and happy.

During those couple of weeks caring for Mr. P and his family, I, as his primary nurse, became very emotionally attached to them.  I found myself spending more and more time in the room at the patient’s bedside, trying to do everything possible. I found my efforts were not achieving the outcomes of getting Mr. P over his illness and on to recovery.  The family and I began questioning the seriousness of Mr. P’s lack of improvement.  The concerns were relayed to the surgical team, followed by a lengthy discussion with the family on the best treatment to pursue next.  A decision was made to take Mr. P back to surgery to explore the possible causes of his pain and lack of improvement.

In surgery, the surgeons discovered that Mr. P had a new problem, coupled with his battle with cancer.  The tissue around the operative sight had eroded, causing the tissue to tear, with his tube feedings leaking into the surrounding area..  With such fragile tissue, the possibility of being able to secure that tissue closed was questionable.  In addition, his primary esophageal cancer had metastasized.  Mr. P’s surgery was completed, unsuccessfully, and he was returned to his SICU room.

The surgical team presented the findings to the family, with the outlook of an estimated one week survival for Mr. P.  The shock of the news saddened the family.  The rest of that day was spent grieving and trying to accept the facts that had been presented.  The family returned home that evening to consider their options with Mr. P’s care.

Upon the family’s return to the hospital the next day, they presented me with their proposal.  They wanted to take Mr. P home, so that his wish of dying at home in his environment could be accomplished.  My immediate reaction was one of, “We can’t do that, that’s never been done before.  He needs us to take care of him.”  I couldn’t see past his need for dressing changes, pain medication, oxygen, a hospital bed, etcetera.

Over the following hour or so, I thought intently about the family’s request.  I started questioning my response to them.  Why couldn’t they take him home?  Why couldn’t we teach the family the necessary tasks to care for him at home?  Just because it had never been done before, was this enough reason not even to try?  If this were my spouse or father, would I want his wish granted?  I became convinced this was not an impossible task.  We were going to get Mr. P. home!

The wheels started spinning.  I shared my desire with the family of wanting to honor their wish.  I told them of our slim odds of being able to accomplish this, but we were at least willing to give it our best shot.  The first hurdle was to get the surgical team to agree.  After a phone call to them and their visit to the room within a short time, permission was granted to start the process as soon as possible.  Orders were written to the effect, with the next couple hours spent arranging for necessary items to complete this mission.  In coordination with home health, a hospital bed, wound dressing supplies, morphine, oxygen, as well as many other things, were scheduled to be delivered to the home the next morning.  Since time was of the essence, transportation was arranged to take him home at the beginning of the next day.  The final few hours of that day were spent teaching his wife and children the tasks of dressing changes, medication, oxygen administration, etc.

The next morning arrived and I was excited for the day.  I arrived before the family, visited with Mr. P, and shared with him the excitement the day would bring for him and his family.  With limited energy, he continued to smile throughout our conversation.  His dream was to come true.  I hastily made a sign to put around his neck as his family arrived which read, “PLEASE TAKE ME HOME!”

The memory of that moment when the family entered the room that morning, prepared to take their loved one home, will forever be imprinted on my mind.  In spite of the tragic circumstances surrounding this situation, I will never forget the look on their faces of love, appreciation, and joy.  The emotions shared were not of sadness, but happiness.  This good and kind gentleman, was now free to go home and die with dignity and peace, with his loving family surrounding him.

Word came from the family that Mr. P died on the third day after returning home, with a smile on his face and his entire family surrounding his bed.  The lessons I learned were invaluable.  Things could be accomplished that hadn’t been done before.  I learned the power of dedication and emotional and spiritual strength at times of adversity.  I will never be the same, nor will I ever approach a patient in the same manner as I did before caring for Mr. P.

On Prayer, Gumption, and Gratitude

Note: To offer more insight into the lives of nursing students, we are sending Steven, a writer for the College of Nursing, to the weekly Nursing Stress Management Course. Steven is a Middle East Studies/Arabic major.

Shortly after I entered class, Assistant teaching professor Dr. Leslie Miles was beginning to tell a story from one of the times she took nursing students to study in Finland. We all were busting a gut (or LOLing, in the terminology of my fellow millennials), but the story ended up laying the foundation for the rest of the class.

Basically, she and her students were struggling to get around during Finland’s equivalent of 4th of July. Both the public areas and the tram they managed to get on were crowded with rowdy, inebriated Finns who were making life, shall we say, interesting for the students. To make matters worse, the tram stopped far from their desired destination and the conductor, who didn’t speak English, wanted them to get off.

Through a combination of prayer and gumption, Miles somehow managed to convey to the driver that they needed to go to their hospice. Under no requirement to do so, he left his assigned route and graciously drove them through the city to their hospice, ignoring angry people waiting to board at other stations. It was nothing short of miraculous.

The off-the-cuff tale was followed by the usual review of our week and our stress levels. The topic of our discussion was to be gratitude. I wondered if this would be like one of many Sunday School lessons I had heard on the topic. However, Sunday School lessons usually don’t start with a Ted Talk.

In it, a little girl and an old man give their perspectives on life. The little girl matter-of-factly acknowledges how much adventure lies outside her home, while the older gentleman says that each of us should live each day as if it were our first and our last. This was an interesting thought, since frequently, life tends to get in the way of us stopping to smell the roses or enjoying a fresh Cougar Tail.

IMG_3254

Students discuss their stress levels.

Miles poignantly asked the students if they had lost their imagination since entering nursing school. There were chuckles, but everyone was wondering the same thing: had they?

Miles discussed how oftentimes it is hard to be grateful in stressful situations. These situations test us and push us to the limit, which makes finding things to be grateful for even more important. Calmness can come, she assured us.

Then she weaved in her earlier story—the reason that she had been calm on that tram in Finland, she said, was because “I knew that I would be guided to what I had to do.” That trust in God had allowed her to protect the students and get home safely.

With that, we were assigned to make lists of things for which we were grateful. The lists were not to be just the typical answers like life and the Gospel, but more specific ideas. Some that came to me included not having to use Roman numerals and the fact that I have shoelaces (and shoes, on top of that). As we discussed our simple responses, we realized just how much good we have in our lives.

The best part, Miles said, was that if we made it a habit to do this kind of exercise, we would be not only be more relaxed, but we would have more to talk about with Heavenly Father at the end of the day.

This class may not have had as much interactive activities like the last few times, but it did manage to open my mind more on the topic of gratitude. I could not help but think of President Hinckley, who said, “Be believing. Be happy. Don’t get discouraged. Things will work out.” How true indeed.

Connecting Emotions in the Scriptures with Mental Health

“Jesus Wept: Emotions in the Scriptures” is the new exhibit in the Brigham Young University Education in Zion Gallery. Until mid-November 2018, viewers from all across campus have the opportunity to learn about emotions in the scriptures through interactive displays and thought-provoking visual aids.

The exhibit is the second in a series by the Education in Zion Gallery that examines connections between the scriptures and areas of academic interest. Emotions—positive, negative, and neutral—are highly connected to mental health, and therefore psychiatric nursing.

Nursing students interested in Mental Health and those taking Nursing 461 and Nursing 462 should be especially interested. The emotions featured in the scripture-based exhibit are the basic, universally recognized ones: happiness, anger, disgust, surprise, sadness, and fear. The exhibit includes graphs, charts, and other diagrams to help students visualize the emotions felt by deities and mortals in both the scriptures and modern-day life.

The display poses many rhetorical questions to help students better recognize their own emotions, which in turn helps them develop the critical skills to analyze other peoples’ emotions. The first thing you will see upon entering the exhibit is a mirror asking you to identify your emotions.

South Wall

The exhibit includes an explanation of why emotions like happiness, anger, and fear are important to humankind, providing many scriptural narratives that involve feelings as well as quotes from contemporary authors about those same feelings. Part of the exhibit features a spinning wheel, but instead of listing prizes to win, this wheel features solutions to emotions or unhealthy reactions to those emotions. Some of these solutions include, “Endure a little longer” and “Go to the temple.”

The display will help students to recognize that emotions are not always negative and all emotions come from God.

When they attend, nursing students specifically will expand their ability to study from scripture and begin to understand the divine origin of common adult and child psychiatric disorders. Knowing how to recognize these emotions, and understanding their divine origin, will also help nursing students develop communication skills suited for individuals suffering from mental health disorders. Being able to communicate, considerately and confidently, with those suffering from mental and emotional disorders is a specific aim of nursing courses relating to psychiatric nursing. Nursing students, from the exhibit, will learn to “Integrate the values of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as part of caring,” which is one of the Nursing Program’s outcomes.

Come, look in the mirror, spin the wheel, and enjoy this new exhibit! It is a unique opportunity to learn more about the emotions found within the scriptures and start to discover different truths related to psychiatric nursing.