Category Archives: Public and Global Health Nursing

All Hands on Deck: BYU Nursing Students Onboard the USNS Mercy

By Calvin Petersen

As BYU nursing students and faculty boarded the thousand-bed floating hospital moored in San Diego Bay, they realized their experience on the USNS Mercy was going to be more than just salutes and strict rules. Over the next two days, they had the unique opportunity to see firsthand how the military cares for its veterans.

A Rare Invitation

The San Diego trip resulted from a phone call Dr. Kent Blad received one sweltering morning last summer. Blad is a teaching professor and director of the veteran global health program at the BYU College of Nursing. When he answered the phone, Blad was surprised to hear the man on the other end introduce himself as lieutenant commander of the USNS Mercy, the hospital ship commissioned to serve the Pacific fleet. In addition to supporting military personnel with medical and surgical services, the Mercy undertakes humanitarian relief missions.

The Mercy’s lieutenant commander had read about BYU’s veteran global health course, co-taught by Blad and assistant teaching professor Stacie Hunsaker. He asked, “What can you tell me about what I just read?” “Funny you ask,” Blad replied, “I’ve been waiting for this phone call.”

By the end of the conversation, the lieutenant commander invited Blad, Hunsaker and their nursing students to San Diego to tour the Mercy and Naval Medical Center San Diego. Naval Medical Center San Diego is one of three major U.S. polytrauma centers that serve wounded warriors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“That was the first time we’ve received an invitation,” explains Blad, “Usually we go out there and beg, ‘Can we please come do this?’ And he asked, ‘Can you please come here?’”

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When the USNS Mercy is en route, nurses do simulations, much like at BYU’s NLC, to keep their skills sharp.

First-class Veteran Care

Although veteran global health students travel to Washington D.C. each spring to tour military medical facilities, Blad and Hunsaker felt the additional trip to San Diego would further enrich the students’ military cultural understanding. What the two professors didn’t know was how beneficial the experience would be for them as well.

“I’ve cared for veterans, but until being with them an entire day and spending that time, it was hard to understand the magnitude of the military in their lives,” says Hunsaker, “It’s a part of them, it’s not just a little job. They’re part of a military family, they have a set of beliefs and they love their country. And they really are willing to do whatever needs to be done to serve it. I don’t think I ever knew, to that extent, and hadn’t felt as grateful as I should to them.”

Jeana Escobar, one of the global health nursing students on the trip, learned that veteran care starts with the basics. “Every Navy sailor we met said the same two things: first, that every veteran has a story and you should take time to listen to it and, second, veterans don’t want your sympathy. Veterans want you to listen to them and tell them what they need to do to progress in the healing process.”

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BYU nursing student Jeana Escobar practices CPR on one of the USNS Mercy’s simulation lab manikins.

Students repeatedly saw nurses’ compassionate care for veterans as they toured Naval Medical Center San Diego’s facilities. A therapist working in the wounded warrior unit even confessed that, after starting work with “these brave men and women,” he would find himself crying randomly because of so much pent-up emotion.

The hospital’s courtyard, which was retrofitted with different terrains and a rock climbing wall for amputees to practice using new prosthetic limbs, impressed several students. “I was especially touched by what the physical therapist shared with us about the rock wall,” says nursing student JeriAnn Pack. “He described how, when someone is discouraged and thinks they will never progress, they can look up and see someone with an injury as bad or worse than their own climbing the wall. I can only imagine how inspiring that would be.”

“The students learned very quickly to appreciate these men and women and the part that nursing plays in helping these veterans recover,” Blad says of the nurses on the Mercy and in the naval hospital. “It truly is the Healer’s art in action. The love they have for their country and their patients is inspiring. We could all be more like that with any of our patients.”

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An Unforgettable Experience

The Navy specifically planned the two-day trip in February to meet College of Nursing veteran global health objectives. In addition to touring the Mercy’s simulation center and hospital facilities for a day, students spent a day at the USS Midway Museum, as well as at Navy facilities on the base. “They really took their time and effort and energy, not only to make us feel welcome, but to help us in educating our students,” says Hunsaker.

To several students, the highlight of the trip was a panel where Navy officers and nurses shared their perspectives and personal stories of how they came to join the military. “It was really cool to see how different everyone was, and that they had all been brought to this common cause,” says nursing student Lauren Bretzing.

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“They don’t have amazing living quarters,” says Heather Wilkinson. Seven nursing students show how cramped living quarters on the USNS Mercy are.

For students like Heather Wilkinson, who had previously interacted with elderly veterans, seeing young men and women recovering from current conflicts changed her perception of what a typical veteran looks like. Other students were impressed with the camaraderie and respect of military culture. Undoubtedly each student thought, as Breeze Hollingsworth did, “Maybe military service will be in my future and maybe not. But one thing is for sure: I want to better serve all veterans and active service men and women I come across.”

Because the San Diego trip was such an all-around success, the Navy has already invited Blad and Hunsaker’s class to come again next year. “We feel very strongly that our nurses need to learn how to care for veterans,” says Blad. “It doesn’t matter where they go or what hospital they serve in, as long as they’re within the United States, they’re going to be caring for veteran patients.”

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Debbie Edmunds: Nurturing Through Nursing

By Jonathan Schroeder

Debbie Edmunds, then a mission nurse, was just getting ready for bed when the call came. It must have been the third or fourth call she received that night, yet she still reached for the phone with the same loving eagerness she always did.

When she answered, Edmunds could hear a young sister missionary holding back tears on the other end of the line. The stress and strains of the mission had taken their toll on the young 19-year-old, who was struggling to adjust to her new life as a missionary in Fiji. As the conversation unfolded, Edmunds listened quietly and offered words of support and encouragement. She could tell that what this young missionary really needed at that moment was someone to help her feel loved.

Missionaries that served in Fiji and BYU nursing students alike will tell you that such love and care are not uncommon with Debbie Edmunds. Her compassionate personality and instruction during her time at the College of Nursing have helped hundreds of students along the pathway to nursing. Now after eight years of teaching, Edmunds will retire to serve another mission and spend more time with her 18 grandchildren.

A Mother’s Touch: from Stay-at-Home Mom to Hospital Nurse

Many students may be surprised to learn that Edmunds didn’t actually plan on becoming a nurse until almost 20 years after she graduated high school. Growing up, her dream was to become a teacher. Those dreams got put on hold after she met Gary Edmunds in a high school production of the musical “The Fantastics”. The sweethearts were married shortly after their high school graduation in 1974.

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Edmunds spent the next two decades raising the couple’s seven children, while her husband worked in the construction industry. Her experiences with raising children sparked an interest in nursing, especially after she delivered a baby who was stillborn.

“I really wanted to help other women who were in that same situation,” Edmunds recalls. “I knew just how important it was, as a nurse, to be sensitive to their needs.”

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In 1994, Edmunds returned to school and began working on her associate degree in registered nursing at Salt Lake Community College. At the time, her children ranged in ages from four to twenty-years-old. Occasionally, she had to ask advice from her oldest daughter, who was also working on her college degree. Edmunds would later go on to earn a bachelor’s degree from BYU and a master’s degree in nursing education from the University of Utah.

After earning her associate degree, Edmunds worked in a labor and delivery unit at Alta View Hospital. It was during her time there that Edmunds enjoyed some of her most cherished experiences, as a nurse.

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“My most memorable moments as a nurse are when I was involved in the sacred processes of childbirth,” Edmunds says. “Whether everything went perfectly or whether there was a complication, I was generally one-on-one with the patient. It’s an experience and a reward that’s hard to explain, but the thank you notes that I received from those patients afterwards were always so heartfelt. They were always so grateful that I was there, listening to them and providing the support they desperately needed.”

The Road to BYU Nursing

After two years at Alta View, Edmunds began working in an OB/GYN clinic at South Valley Women’s Health Care, as well as a childbirth educator at Intermountain Health Care. During this time her passion for teaching began to resurface. For two years, she served as a clinical instructor at Utah Valley University and the University of Utah. Then in 2007, she was approached with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; organizing a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) program for the Mountainland Applied Technology College.

“Organizing the LPN program was a big task, because I had to start everything from scratch,” Edmunds explains. “The college had not had an LPN program, so I had to develop a curriculum, get the program accredited, hire the faculty and develop the criteria for accepting students (among other things).”

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After founding the LPN program, Edmunds went on to serve as its director for four straight years. During that time, she met associate professor Dr. Mary Williams, who approached her about teaching at BYU.

“It really was not on my radar to teach at BYU,” Edmunds admits. “It was one of those situations where the Lord had bigger dreams for me than I had for myself.”

Edmunds began teaching as a clinical instructor for BYU in 2010, and became a full-time faculty member in 2012.

Paving New Pathways

During her time at BYU, Edmunds has left an indelible impression on not only the BYU College of Nursing, but also on her students.

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“One of my favorite things about teaching is getting to teach the Nursing 180 [Preview to Nursing] class,” Edmunds says. “I love being there for those new students and getting to know them on a one-on-one basis, as I help them discover whether nursing is the right path for them.”

In July 2016, Edmunds took a twelve-month leave of absence to serve a mission with her husband in Suva, Fiji. While there, Edmunds served as the mission nurse specialist providing support and medical advice for 135 missionaries. She also became intimately familiar with the Fijian healthcare system, making dozens of connections with nurses and hospital directors. These connections provided the basic framework for BYU’s global health practicum in Fiji. This summer, Edmunds will return to her mission –this time with the first group of BYU Nursing students to perform clinicals in that country.

But Edmunds says she isn’t ready to stop there. She and her husband are already waiting on their second mission call, this time, (hopefully) to a mission in the Caribbean.

“It’s been such a blessing to me to know that I’ve been an instrument it the Lord’s hands to help people fulfill their dreams,” Edmunds says of her BYU experience. “Being here at BYU has been wonderful. It’s a wonderful environment with wonderful faculty and wonderful students. It’s something that I will dearly miss.”

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When asked what advice she had for future nursing students and faculty members, Edmunds said, “I would suggest living your values. Whatever it is that brings you that joy and meaning, make sure you’re living your life in a way that you can do that. Follow your dreams and do what makes you happy.”

Taking Wing to New Heights

By Calvin Petersen

From extreme sports to nursing and humanitarian work, Debra Wing isn’t afraid of trying new things. Now after teaching at BYU’s College of Nursing for 11 years, Wing will again embrace something new: retirement. And considering her life so far, Wing’s retirement will be far from dull.

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Debra Wing (left) and her husband Kelly (second from right) with their three children. Wing says her children and three grandchildren are “the joys of my life.”

Nursing Runs in the Family

Growing up, Wing watched her two older sisters attend nursing school and work at hospitals. As they shared inspiring experiences, Wing thought she would love nursing too.

“I started my freshman year at BYU taking all the nursing prereqs and working in a hospital,” she remembers, “and I kept thinking, ‘I hate this.’”

Wing decided to study business instead at a neighboring college. But before she left BYU, she married Kelly Wing, a military man who had just returned from serving an LDS mission. “We met in a BYU family home evening,” she recalls with a chuckle. After graduating with a business degree, Wing spent the next 10 years as a businesswoman.

“Yet, I always felt something was missing,” she says, “so, with very small children, I went back to nursing school and finished my bachelor’s.”

This was made possible by an opportunity with the military. It needed nurses and was willing to help pay for Wing’s college; Wing needed a job and financial aid. With the added incentive that her husband was already in the Air Force, she joined. “I found out I loved the military,” Wing says, “so I just stayed in.”

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Wing with her sister and nursing professor, Deanna Williams, on graduation day.

Nursing on the Front Lines

One of the things Wing enjoyed most about her military nursing career was doing clinical oversight for EMEDS training. In this role, she instructed hundreds of National Guard and Army Reserve medical personnel on how to provide support in war zones. She also worked with Homeland Security to train national disaster relief organizations on how to respond to every kind of disaster—from hurricanes to hostage situations.

“Something I really loved about my career is that nursing continually reinvents itself,” Wing says, “what we thought we knew about nursing yesterday isn’t what we’re going to know about nursing tomorrow.”

Wing herself was “reinvented” dozens of times during her career as she took on new nursing roles. Perhaps her favorite “reinvention” was becoming a mission nurse for the LDS Korea Seoul Mission in 2015. According to Wing, her mission wasn’t the quietest in the world.

“We were right up by the DMZ, 17 miles from the northern border,” she says, “there were missile exchanges and gunfire right in our backyard.”

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Wing’s husband swearing her in as a United States Air Force officer.

In it for the Thrill

Outside of her nursing career, Wing is an extreme sports enthusiast. “I love anything that’s a little bit dangerous,” she says.

Before she met her husband, Wing’s boyfriend in high school and college was a racecar driver. “Our dates consisted of racing,” she remembers, smiling mischievously. Now one of her favorite things to do is drive cars at 150+ mph. However, since the Autobahn hasn’t come to Utah, she makes do with crawling over Southern Utah rocks in her Subaru Outback.

On top of racing cars, Wing is an extreme skier. In fact, she used to race the downhill and super-G professionally. With her approaching retirement, Wing plans to finally take up the extreme sport she’s always wanted to: skydiving.

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Wing (second from left) and colleague Gaye Ray (second from right) hold up a sign for the anniversary of the BYU College of Nursing, established in 1952. The two professors traveled with students, including Erin Marshall (left) and Mike McNeil (right), to Pamplona, Spain, for the International Family Nursing Conference in 2017.

Onward and Upward

Wing’s other plans for retirement include working with several organizations to teach medical education in developing countries. “I’ll be leaving the University, but I’m not leaving nursing,” she says.

Wing has worked with Healing Hands for Haiti and IVUMED in past humanitarian efforts and intends to resume those efforts. “I’m excited to be able to go back and do that,” she says. Furthermore, Wing will continue to volunteer regularly at Provo Food and Care Coalition. She and her husband also want to serve another LDS mission.

Reflecting on her experience as a nurse, she says, “What made my nursing career worthwhile was the opportunity I had to serve people every day. I love that experience of giving of myself. There’s a reward that comes from caring that’s far greater than monetary rewards.”

If she could give her younger self any piece of advice, Wing says it would be to enjoy the journey more. “Don’t spend so much time worrying about what has to get done,” she advised, “I think we can become too serious about the task and forget how joyful the journey can be.”

Wing is proud of her accomplishments at the College of Nursing. In addition to working tirelessly to make the NLC expansion a possibility, Wing has mentored numerous students. “I’m very grateful for the students and I’m very grateful for my colleagues,” Wing says, “Working in the College of Nursing has been a beautiful experience because of them.”

From Tourette’s to Nursing School

By Calvin Petersen

Jared Lorimier understands first-hand what suffering from a medical disorder is like. He developed the motor and vocal tics of Tourette’s Syndrome when he was eight years old.

“I was really confused about why I had Tourette’s and it caused me a lot of grief and pain,” says Jared, a native of Nederland, Texas. Much of that grief came from elementary classmates, who teased Jared about his disorder.

Jared eventually learned how to control his Tourette’s, which ultimately inspired his decision to become a nurse. “I know there are people out there that are confused about why they have certain diseases and confused about why their health isn’t the best. I just want to be there to comfort people with things like that.” His compassion and ability to overcome difficulty makes Jared a perfect fit for BYU’s nursing program.

Jared Lorimier Profile

While Jared is open to what the future brings, he currently hopes to work in a NICU. He believes that it “would be rewarding work and a really spiritual experience.”

Up for the Challenge

Although Jared always knew he wanted to be in the medical field, he decided to become a nurse only recently. “When I think of nursing, I think of the challenges that the nurses are faced with and I’ve always liked challenges,” says Jared. One of his biggest challenges is his demanding weekly schedule.

Not only is Jared taking rigorous first-semester nursing courses, but he is also on the BYU track team, which takes up nearly 20 hours of his week in practices alone. Furthermore, Jared is a counselor in his YSA ward bishopric. Even with all this, he still manages to find time to watch ‘The 100’ and ‘Stranger Things’ with his wife.

On top of handling a heavy schedule, learning the basics of medical attention will be an added challenge. While such challenges would make some apprehensive, Jared only smiles in anticipation with confidence that he can do it all.

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A Pair of Nurses

Jared is one of just four males admitted to BYU’s College of Nursing program this semester. “When I first decided that I wanted to apply to nursing school, of course I thought of the stereotype of being a male nurse, but honestly it didn’t deter me. I think it’s important, especially with the growing need of nurses, for males to break that stereotype.”

Moreover, of the four first-semester male students, Jared is the only one who is married. His wife, Madeline, is thrilled at his decision to become a nurse because she’s going to school to become one herself. “We’re both super excited to learn from each other,” says Jared.

Even though Madeline was preparing to become a nurse before Jared, things worked out so that they could start their studies at the same time, with Madeline at Utah Valley University and Jared at BYU. “Now that I’m here, I want to make sure I get everything I can out of this program,” concludes Jared. If he demonstrates the same level of determination and empathy he has so far, there’s no doubt that he will.

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.”

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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.

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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.

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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

Four Steps to Food Safety

 

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Practicing Proper Food Safety Techniques Can Help Keep You Family Safe               (Image Courtesy of CDC)

An undercooked steak could be the difference between a good night’s sleep and a trip to the ER. Every year 48 million Americans suffer from one of the most preventable diseases on the planet—food poisoning. As part of National Food Safety Education Month, here are four easy tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to prevent food poisoning.

4%20steps to food safety - clean, separate, cook, chill

(Image Courtesy of CDC)

     1. CleanAccording to the National Health Service (NHS), a single flu virus can survive on your kitchen countertop for up to 24 hours. Use antibacterial soaps and cleaning supplies to rid your kitchen of any germs that may linger on your hands, utensils, or cutting boards. The CDC also recommends rinsing fresh fruits and vegetables under running water to clean off any dirt or pesticides before consumption.

(Check out this USDA Food Safety “Clean” Video for more details)

 

      2. Separate

Have you ever wondered why you need a separate bag for raw meats at the grocery store? This is to prevent cross-contamination—the spread of bacteria from one source to another, particularly from raw meat to other foods. Prevent cross-contamination by keeping raw meats, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from produce and ready-to-eat foods. Also, be sure to sanitize any surfaces or utensils that touch raw meat or meat juices before using them elsewhere.

Make Sure You Separate Food to Prevent Cross-Contamination                  (Image Courtesy of CDC)

(Check out this USDA Food Safety “Separate” Video for more Details)

 

     3. Cook

How do you know if your steak is cooked well enough? Just because it looks done does not necessarily mean it’s bacteria-free. Checking your food’s internal temperature with a food thermometer is a key way to make sure it is fully cooked.

The CDC recommends the following internal temperatures for different dishes:

  • 145˚F: Internal Temperature for whole beef, lamb, fin fish, fresh pork and ham.
  • 160˚F: Internal Temperature for ground beef, pork, and lamb, and any egg dishes
  • 165˚F: Internal Temperature for all poultry (including ground chicken and turkey), stuffing, leftovers, and casseroles

(Check out this USDA Food Safety “Cook” Video for more Details)

 

       4. Chill

Did you know that germs can grow on some foods within two hours if they are not properly refrigerated? The CDC recommends keeping your refrigerator below 40˚F to slow bacterial growth. Check food labels and ensure that perishable food items are properly refrigerated. Also, be sure to thaw frozen meats properly using a microwave or cold water.

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(Check out this USDA Food Safety “Chill” Video for more Details)

 

 

For additional information, see the links below:

https://www.cdc.gov/features/befoodsafe/index.html

http://www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/how-long-do-bacteria-and-viruses-live-outside-the-body.aspx

https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/education-month.html

 

 

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.”

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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.

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Edmunds with various missionaries