Category Archives: Student spotlight

Student Spotlight: Lexy Rowberry

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Rowberry loves spending time with her family. Photo courtesy of Rowberry.

By Corbin Smith

Well, students. Here we are again. Another school year has kicked off with new opportunities to grow and serve. There will be late-night study sessions and last-minute cramming for tests, but you will also learn so many new things, as well as meeting new friends along the way. One of those new friends that you may meet as you walk the halls of the Kimball Tower this year is a 5th-semester student named Lexy Rowberry.

As a young girl, Rowberry never imagined that she would be studying nursing here at BYU. Her family is full of teachers so Rowberry, planning to follow in the footsteps of her family, had always imagined herself studying something like English or education. It was when her mom suggested nursing while she was applying for college that Rowberry first considered the idea of pursuing nursing at BYU.

Her road to becoming a nurse started long before that day, though.

When Rowberry was young, her father got a job in Australia which moved the entire family to a small town in the middle of Australia. “It was terrifying. I never did anything,” Rowberry says, laughing, of her experience. Being in a new place around new people was tough and forced Rowberry to see the world in a new way. “Living with different people got me outside myself. I saw that there was another way to live life!” she says. This realization was the start of Rowberry’s desire to serve and make life better for all people, no matter how. “I saw others and thought, I’d really like to do something in my life to help be a source for good,” she explains.

As she was growing up, Rowberry had another impactful experience that shifted her outlook on life. Not very many of us have to deal with the stress and uncertainty that comes with having someone with cancer in your family. Even those who do, usually aren’t faced with that at a young age. Nonetheless, that is exactly what Rowberry had to deal with as a young girl.

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Photo courtesy of Rowberry.

While in Australia, just as Rowberry’s dad was called as bishop of their ward, her mom was diagnosed with cancer. What would you do? How would you react? Many young people might close themselves off and blame others for the scary things that are happening. Rowberry did the exact opposite. “It was then when I really turned to my Heavenly Father. It changed me to really trust him and say, ‘Life is serious. I’ll do whatever you want me to do. It’s going to be okay’,” she says.

It was then when Rowberry started to become the smiley, upbeat and happy person that she is today. Her testimony of God and positive outlook on life has given her the ability to overcome the trials that have come into her life at every point in her life. “Being happy just makes everything so much better,” she explains, “Life is better when you’re happy.” Now, when you see Rowberry in the hall, you’re bound to see a smile that goes from ear to ear!

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Photo courtesy of Rowberry.

This positive attitude that Rowberry has developed has helped her be successful in each semester of the nursing program. Whether you are just starting your first semester or are reaching the end of your BYU career, here are three pieces of advice from Rowberry to have a great and rewarding semester this year:

  1. “Put your foot in a lot of places” – Try new things this semester! Join a new club, pick up a new hobby or read a new (non-textbook) book! Studying is grueling so try to forget about school every once in a while so you can relax!
  2. Enjoy learning – You are learning the Healer’s art! Enjoy the process of learning and making mistakes. Don’t worry too much at being perfect at everything at the start and do your best to slow things down and enjoy the process!
  3. Focus on why you’re there – Everyone has their own answer to the question “Why nursing?”. Make sure you remember your “why”! When school gets stressful it is hard to remember why, so write your “why” down where you will always see it and each time you sit in class or at your desk to study, keep that “why” in mind!

 

As Rowberry starts her senior year she is excited to continue learning and applying what she has learned in past semesters and in the clinical practicum for her Public and Global health nursing course last summer. Make sure, when you see her in the halls this year, to give her a smile and a high-five!

 

The Valor Award: Serving Our Heroes

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Julie Minson is honored to receive this year’s Valor Award for future nurse practitioners. Photo courtesy of Minson.

By Quincey Taylor

Serving others that have given so much in honor of this country is a privilege that only select nurses get to enjoy. Some of these nurses are alumna Emily Lance Santillan (’19) and current nursing graduate student Julie Minson, both of whom received the Valor Award during their respective times in the nursing program, the first during her bachelor’s and the second during her time as a graduate student.

The Valor Award is a great opportunity for students that want to learn skills in a specialized environment. Given to students at differing times in their education, the Valor Award is modified to best help recipients at their current point of training. Undergraduate students have the opportunity to work at the George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, mimicking a paid internship, while graduate students can use the hours gained at the VA towards becoming a nurse practitioner.

Surrounded by experienced nurses and guided by their preceptors, Santillan and Minson readily cared for a population that is in need of their love and attention.

Emily’s Experience

The Nursing VA Learning Opportunity Residency (VALOR) Program is for outstanding students who have completed their junior year of an accredited baccalaureate nursing program and may be interested in a nursing career in the Department of Veterans Affairs. Under the guidance of a VA registered nurse preceptor, VALOR students have opportunities for clinical practice and competencies in a nursing specialty area. The student will also complete an independent, problem-focused, clinical project.

Santillan was so grateful for the experience she had at the VA. She says, “It was a huge growing and learning experience. My confidence as a nurse just skyrocketed. From the beginning to the end, I feel like I was ready to graduate and be a nurse, like the next day if I could.”

She felt that this chance to learn was different than other opportunities that she’d had. She continues, “Sometimes during clinical, it gets you close, but not quite to that point where you are on your own. At VA, I felt like I could do most things independently for the whole day. I could do charting, meds, interventions, everything. That was invaluable for me to have that confidence.”

Santillan was inspired to apply for the Valor Award after doing clinical at the VA with assistant professor Dr. Julie Valentine during her third semester. She loved the experience and decided to apply that next summer. The application process for her was almost like any other job interview, and she was thrilled when she was selected.

That summer, she worked almost full time in order to achieve 400 working hours by the start of fall semester. If she wanted to return to work there now after graduation, it would be a relatively simple process.

Santillan is grateful for her time at BYU and says, “It stretched me a lot and challenged me a lot, but was very rewarding. I feel like if you’re comfortable, you’re not growing. You’ve got to get out of your comfort zone and grow… I know I’m a completely different person. I know I’ve improved so much since when I started at BYU.”

Since completion of her Bachelor’s degree, Santillan has had a baby, and hopes to return to nursing in the fall.

Julie’s Experience

The VA funded learning opportunity for nurse practitioner student clinical training is reserved for graduate DNP and MSN students interested in a nursing career in the Department of Veterans Affairs. Their working hours gained at the VA can go towards their clinical hours to become a nurse practitioner.

“This award actually came as a great surprise to me,” she remarks. She had been thinking about where she wanted to work when she was done with school, and the VA came to mind. She applied to their internship program, where she will be doing her capstone. She was thrilled when she was selected to participate.

She says, “I had been talking to associate professor Dr. Beth Luthy about how excited I was about applying and how I was looking forward to how rigorous the training is, and the growth I will have there.  They see lots of complex patients with complex problems and I know that I will learn so much.”

Unbeknownst to Minson, Luthy nominated her for the Valor Award and she was chosen! She says, “I was humbled and also very grateful to receive this award. I have always loved the elderly.  I started out as a CNA in high school and worked at rest homes and doing home health care with the geriatric population to get through my undergraduate. I also love the grandmas of my ward and love sitting with them.  I’ve always loved their deep well of knowledge and life experiences; they have a deep reservoir of love for their fellowmen because of what life has taught them. Taking care of an aging body with such a deep and wonderful heart can be a challenge, and it’s one I’m looking forward to.”

Coming back to school at 40 years old with three children was not easy for Minson, but she has enjoyed every minute. She says, “I’ve been blown away by how much each professor is individually interested in me and my learning.  This is a topnotch program and if you’re thinking about becoming a nurse practitioner then BYU is the best choice!”

She wants to give a special thanks to Luthy and associate teaching professor Dr. Blaine Winters for their confidence in her and nominating her.

Intermountain Medical Center Hires Three Fresh BYU Graduates

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IMC’s newest hired ER nurses Mikaela Jones (third from the right) and Daniel Smith (far right) with fellow students during a clinical outside ER ambulance entrance. Photo courtesy of Jones.

By Quincey Taylor

For nursing students at BYU, it might be hard to imagine what it would be like to attend another college of nursing. How would it compare to BYU? Would students receive as many chances to gain clinical experience? Would opportunities post-graduation be different?

Recently, a conversation had by teaching professor Dr. Kent Blad truly illustrates how our college compares to other educational institutions in the eyes of employers.

Our Students are Impressive

During the winter semester 2019, Blad was at Intermountain Medical Center with his students to do their Emergency Department clinical. He needed to speak with the nurse manager there, and she had something she wanted to say to him.

The nurse manager and the assistant nurse manager had just barely finished interviewing applicants for three open nursing positions in the hospital. They had 125 applicants and interviewed only a select few. Out of all the applicants, four freshly graduated BYU students applied.

The nurse manager said, “We don’t normally hire new graduates, but your students were so amazing in how they presented themselves, their resumes, and their letters that they wrote for the application. We were so impressed by what they had done already in the program. We just couldn’t believe what we were seeing with these new graduates.”

She even went on to say that one of the applicants received a perfect score on their application, a score the hiring staff rarely, if ever, gave. She remarked, “We don’t know what you’re doing there, but whatever it is, please don’t stop.”

Our Students are In Demand

Even though they were originally only looking for three new hires, they ended up asking for special permission from administration to open more spots in order to offer jobs to all of the BYU applicants. Being the biggest Level One trauma center in Utah, it is rare for IMC to hire recent graduates. However, the hiring staff could not pass up such stellar applicants.

Only three BYU students accepted the offered positions, including BYU alumni Mikaela Jones and Daniel Smith, along with another student from BYU-Idaho. The staff at IMC was eager and excited to add these stellar nurses to their team.

Blad was so moved by their opinion of the college, and says, “They really did appreciate our program and the way that we prepare our students for real life. When I walked out of there I felt so proud to be associated with our program that has such a good reputation.”

Our Students are Prepared

This praise of the program motivated Blad to be the best professor he can be, and he said, “To think that we, as faculty, have even a little part in students’ preparation, it just made me feel so good. We are preparing them not only adequately, but above and beyond what is expected. It was just a proud moment.”

Blad would also like to attribute the college’s success to the wonderful students who are so ready and eager to learn. With the high-quality training given by the college and the efforts of amazing students, the resulting success is definitely a team effort.

Jones is so grateful for the opportunity to work in the ER at IMC since January and says, “My education from BYU gave me the confidence to chase a job that scared me. I didn’t even capstone in the ER, but I had confidence that I had the knowledge I needed to get me started. The IMC ER actually said no to my online application because of lack of experience. I was determined and just showed up at the ER with my resume and a letter of 3 reasons they should hire me for the job.” It was because of her confidence that Jones was hired.

She goes on to say, “The reason I tell this story is because I really do believe BYU instilled in me a sense of confidence that I could be a great nurse if I really worked at it.”

Smith is also grateful for how the college helped him prepare and says, “The College of Nursing taught me to push myself, be a dependable team player, and prepare myself for a lifetime of learning.” He loves his new job and says, “Being a new grad here is like drinking from a firehose… I never thought I would be a psych nurse, a pediatric nurse, a women’s health nurse, or work with law enforcement so much on top of working with critical patients.”

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Smith and fellow nurses in HAZMAT suites, one of the many skills he has learned on the job. Photo courtesy of Smith.

For his Global Health trip when he was in school, he served among the At Risk population in the prison. This was a helpful experience to prepare him for his current job. He says, “I love being able to say I work with some of the sickest and most injured patients in Utah and that I’m making some of their worst days a little better.”

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Smith really loves his new job! Photo courtesy of Smith. 

Blad reassures students in the program that the BYU College of Nursing amply prepares its students and says, “We just want our students to know if they will stick with the program and do the things that they’re supposed to, that they can have confidence that they will come out and be well prepared for whatever opportunities are out there.”

 

Student Spotlight: Kaycen Caldwell

By Jessica Tanner

Kaycen Caldwell never thought he would be a Driver’s Education instructor. A fifth-semester nursing student, Caldwell was introduced to the idea by a roommate who thought he would be good for the job. Caldwell was skeptical, but after trying it for himself he found it to be a decent job. “It’s actually pretty nice,” Caldwell admits. “It’s enjoyable. I like it.” He has now been teaching students to drive for two years.

Caldwell appreciates the job’s flexibility and independence. “[My boss] trusts that I’m there, that I’m teaching what I’m supposed to,” explains Caldwell, “and as long as they pass their tests he’s cool with whatever I do.” Caldwell has found crossovers between nursing and being a Driver’s Ed instructor. For one, working with people. Patients and students alike often require time, attention, and patience. Nurses also spend much of their time teaching and explaining.  “I’m teaching constantly at work, so it helps with that crossover to teaching patients.” Caldwell says.

When he first came to school, Caldwell was not considering nursing. “I wanted to be a doctor because I thought doctors were the ones who had a lot of patient interaction. I figured out that wasn’t the case; it is actually the nurses that do.” After some encouragement from his mother to consider nursing, Caldwell decided to take the prerequisites to see if he liked them. “I liked it a lot,” Caldwell reports. “So I decided to apply for the program. I got in and ever since it’s been something that I know I’m going to like and do well in.”

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Caldwell participates at “Nurseworking” speed luncheon

When Caldwell is not teaching Driver’s Ed or studying nursing, he is playing sports, running for a Lazy Ironman, or hanging out with friends. “Hobbies are kind of endless,” he says. He also taught himself to juggle and crochet and loves reading. “I always have a book I’m reading that’s not related to nursing,” he says.

Approaching his final semester, Caldwell plans his next step by looking back. His most memorable moments have been working in pediatrics and obstetrics and interacting with sick children and their families. Caldwell is grateful that he and his family have been fortunate not to be affected by similar hardships. “I think it was just sitting in those rooms, talking to the families and everything for me to realize that yeah, you’ve got it good.” These experiences has not just given him perspective but also motivation.  “I’m also grateful to be in a position where I can help people who are struggling with those very hard-to-deal-with things in their lives,” says Caldwell. After graduation in December, he hopes to work in the NICU and help those in need.

 

Nursing Has Met its Match

By Jessica Tanner

The BYU Tennis Club worked, sweated, and played hard this past weekend at the USTA Tennis on Campus regional tournament. Practice has paid off: BYU placed third at the tournament and qualified for nationals. Electra Cochran, a third-semester nursing student, leads the team as one of its co-captains. Balancing nursing with tennis and her other love, music, has been a challenge, but one that has blessed her life and lives of others.

Her first semester as a nursing student not only taught Cochran about nursing, but about life. “When I started the program my focus was only nursing,” she says. “And that semester was so hard. It really took a toll on me because I was just so focused on that one aspect of my life.” From there, she determined to incorporate the hobbies she loves most: tennis and music. Cochran has played tennis for eleven years, and in her second semester joined the BYU Tennis Club, shortly becoming one of three co-captains. A violinist, she also joined the university orchestra. “That semester was so much better,” she recalls. She had fun, felt healthy, and was able to do her schoolwork. “And I was able to feel more fulfilled at the end of the week.”

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Photo courtesy of Cochran

She has found there are many skills that easily transfer from nursing to tennis. “Nursing has taught me to work hard and critically think,” she explains. “Tennis is such a mental sport. Being able to keep calm in stressful situations and think through strategy… go hand-in-hand with things we’ve been working on in nursing.”

As nursing skills have influenced her hobbies, her hobbies have influenced her experiences in nursing and blessed others’ lives. One memorable experience was her first clinical in geriatrics. One patient in particular was a little rough around the edges at first, but they quickly bonded over one common love: the accordion. “She mentioned that when she was growing up her dad taught her to play,” Cochran explains. “And I also play the accordion.” The connection sparked an idea. Cochran asked the patient if she would play if Cochran brought her accordion the next week. The woman said she would.  The next week she played the instrument she had not touched in 45 years.

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Photo Courtesy of Cochran

“She [has] dementia, but when she started playing the accordion, it was like a lot of emotions and things came back to her,” Cochran remembers. But the accordion was only part of a more important service. “She just felt a little forgotten in that nursing home, and just having someone that cared about her made a big difference in her life. When I said bye to her that was the first time a patient had ever told me ‘I love you’. And that was a moment I’ll never forget.”

“I just realized that there is no mold that you have to fit to be a nurse,” Cochran says. “The most important thing is using your talents, your personality, to serve others.” Though tennis and music have given Cochran unique opportunities to serve, the most important part is simply caring. Cochran feels she still has a lot to learn, but she knows she can always choose to care.

Cochran and The BYU Tennis Club will continue on to the national championships in Arizona this April!