By Mindy Longhurst
The 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.”
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 https://byunursing.wordpress.com/2018/04/30/all-hands-on-deck-byu-nursing-students-onboard-the-usns-mercy/.)
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 http://wildgoosecreekstudio.com/index.php.
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.
Hollingsworth 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.”
Image 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.”