Category Archives: Student spotlight

Student Spotlight: Laura Fisher

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Fisher and her husband; Photo courtesy of Fisher

By Lyndee Johns

Fifth-semester student Laura Fisher lives for the high-pressure situations.

“I’ve only had two codes on my floor,” says Fisher, referring to the medical oncology floor at the Intermountain Medical Center where she works as a CNA. “But I get a clear head when a code comes on and I just kind of know what to do and I’m ready to do it.”

A Utah native, Fisher’s interest in nursing sparked while attending Waterford, a liberal-arts centered private school. Recognizing that she had a multitude of interests, Fisher asked her parents for recommendations on what to focus on. Her parents said that she would make a great nurse. After considering it, Fisher decided to focus on nursing.

Originally her path led her to Westminster College, where she was accepted into the nursing program directly after high school. “I learned a lot, but at the end of the first year, I didn’t feel right about it,” Fisher says.

With five months to go before Fisher’s mission, her mother encouraged her to take a spring semester at BYU. It was then that Fisher discovered her love for BYU, enjoying the uplifting environment and the opportunities to learn at a deeper level.

After her mission to Mexico, Fisher returned to BYU. But her plans hit a temporary snag when she applied for the nursing program and didn’t get in.

But a week later, she received a call telling her that a spot had opened up.

“I was in the middle of Spanish class, and I was sobbing in joy,” says Fisher.  “And I was like ‘This is it . . . Heavenly Father has been directing me this way.’”

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Fisher (second to the left) and her clinical group; Photo courtesy of Fisher

One moment that has stood out to her during her time in the nursing program was the first clinical day. “The night before, I was so scared,” Fisher says. But when she went into the day, determined to do her best, she found herself pleasantly surprised. “I was having a ball. I loved it, and the time went super, super fast.”

When she noticed that one of the other girls was having a hard time, Fisher sat down to reassure her. “I said, ‘You just gotta go, just get through the day, and you’re gonna be glad you did.’ And I think it changed her. And it made me feel good because I was talking to myself through her, you know?”

“I know so much more than I did that first day at clinical. And it’s just going to keep going like that. That’s what nursing is, just always learning. You’re always having to prepare and increase your skills.”

Fisher’s compassion and love of talking to people have also served her well as a CNA. When a terminal patient told her she only had a month to live, Fisher was able to provide some comfort. “She was just like, ‘I haven’t been a good person. Do you think there’s any hope?’ And I got to have a missionary experience. I sat down and shared ‘You know, Heavenly Father loves you, and He’s gonna make it work.’”

In addition to being a CNA and a nursing student, Fisher is also a violinist. She continues to take lessons at BYU, and has been teaching violin for the past seven years.

After graduating, Fisher has no intention of giving her adrenal glands a rest. She plans to work either in the labor delivery room, the emergency room, or the ICU. “I want to do the adrenalin-high stuff while I can,” says Fisher. While not positive about her long-term plans, Fisher considers nurse midwife a definite possibility. “I love working with babies. They’re so pure and helpless, and so you’ve gotta help them,” she says.

Fisher’s advice for incoming nursing students? “Don’t compare yourself to other students. Compare yourself to you . . . There’s always gonna be students smarter than you and better at things than you, students that don’t need to study nearly as much as you do . . . But you’re unique. You got accepted for a reason. Trust in your own ability.”

Student Spotlight: Jenna Lewis

By Corbin Smith

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Photo courtesy of Lewis

As we all know, nursing takes on many faces. Nursing is special because careers can range from a variety of fields. The BYU College of Nursing values all extracurricular activities and organizations and encourages students to participate in those opportunities so that students can be exposed to a wide collection of these fields. This past summer, 4th semester student Jenna Lewis found herself involved with a relatively unknown organization among students called Camp Kesem.

Camp Kesem is an annual summer camp, driven by college students, to support youth whose parents currently deal with or have dealt with cancer. Camp Kesem had its beginnings in 2001 at Stanford University and has since expanded to over 100 chapters across the US, including one here in Utah Valley! Understanding the financial burdens taken by families whose parents are cancer patients, Camp Kesem and its volunteers fundraise year-round so camp can be free for the families each year.

During camp, the children participate in an array of activities and games, completely led by college students. The student volunteers, including Lewis, are assigned a specific age group of children, whom they assist both physically and emotionally during the week. All is done with the purpose of helping the children forget the hardships going on in their families through the companionship and empathy of the volunteers.

How Kesem Found Her

Lewis’ life-changing journey to Kesem started last year on an ordinary Wednesday night. Her roommate had been attending weekly meetings for a camp that Lewis had never heard of. That day, her roommate invited her to go with her to a meeting. Lewis reluctantly accepted her invitation to go, not ready to commit to camp because she knew how time consuming it would be.

When she arrived, the meeting was nothing like she expected it to be. “When I got there we talked about service and love, played games and sang camp songs and watched a powerful video. That is when I knew this was a special place,” says Lewis. That night, Camp Kesem found its way into her heart.

Camp!

After months of preparation and fundraising, camp finally arrived. The week’s activities included swimming, a water fight with over a thousand water balloons and even a camp-wide paint war!

Nevertheless, Lewis says the best part of camp was getting to know the campers. “They just change you,” says Lewis, “They soften your heart. They teach you about empathy and loving people unconditionally.” Their influence and example changed her perspective on nursing as well as her heart.

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She had one experience that epitomized the change she felt at Camp Kesem. One afternoon of camp a group of 6 and 7 year-old campers were running around, jumping from bench to bench trying to avoid touching the ground. One little boy slipped, fell down and scraped his knee. At the sight of a tear, without hesitation, Lewis jumped up and quickly calmed him down with a small bandage and pep talk. From that moment on, Lewis had created a strong friendship with this young camper, constantly being showered with hugs and smiles the rest of the week. “That experience helped me realize that when you are willing to help people in the way they need to be helped, they’ll open their hearts and you will see what they need.”

This lesson has continued to help Lewis as she continues in school and in her clinical rotations at the Huntsman Cancer Center. Camp Kesem helped her see first-hand the effect cancer has on families. That knowledge has helped her as she tries to serve patients in her clinicals. Her experience with Kesem gives her a perspective few of her peers possess. “Kesem has helped me understand a tiny part of their needs and worries,” says Lewis, “I even talk to some patients about Camp Kesem for their kids and it brings light to their eyes.”

Why Kesem?

Kesem’s ultimate purpose is to bring joy into the lives of the campers, but, in the end, it changes the lives of all those involved. Explaining why Kesem changed her life so dramatically she explains, “At Kesem you learn the value of being vulnerable and allowing others to be vulnerable with you. You learn to care about people other than yourself, and it’s contagious! It is incredible to go into a group of relative strangers and be loved selflessly.”

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Photo courtesy of Lewis

It is a unique opportunity to participate in a camp such as Camp Kesem. For Lewis, not only did it change her life as an individual, but it also transformed the way she thinks of nursing and how it can be applied. Without a doubt, Lewis returned from Kesem inspired and prepared for her next step in school and in life. “Until next summer,” she exclaims!

New Scholarship Opportunities for Graduate Students: Join GNSA Today!

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Graduate student Trissa Lyman is excited to get BYU students connected with other universities! Photo courtesy of Lyman.

By Quincey Taylor

For the first time ever, a BYU student has been selected as the Graduate Nursing Student Academy liaison. Well, what does that mean? Graduate student Trissa Lyman is excited to teach us all, and inform nursing students of further opportunities they could be taking advantage of.

The Graduate Nursing Student Academy (GNSA), “provides high value programs, services, and resources to graduate nursing students enrolled in master’s and doctoral programs affiliated with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing” (GNSA pamphlet). As the first year with their own GNSA liaison, BYU students can familiarize themselves with the program and take part in some of the help they have to offer.

One of Lyman’s favorite things about being a member is the opportunity to network. Through GNSA Connect – an online community of graduate nursing students – members can meet their peers throughout the country and join discussions, make connections, and share resources. Lyman says, “There’s just so many resources and so many cool people that are doing different things that weren’t even on my radar before.”

Additionally, members can apply for GNSA’s exclusive scholarships and other financial aid opportunities. Joining GNSA is free to all BYU graduate students and Lyman is eager to spread the good news. It is her duty to keep students informed and connected with the GNSA community and she has been emailing students encouraging them to sign up. Even though she’s new to the position, Lyman is certain it will be a worth-while experience.

Lyman explains, “Joining is good for professional development, because sometimes you just don’t know what’s available or what’s out there. I feel like the GNSA is the perfect platform to be exposed to all variety of possibilities.”

To join, register at www.aacnursing.org/GNSA/Join or talk to Lyman or professor Dr. Beth Luthy.

Lets Talk About It!

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By Corbin Smith

One of the world’s greatest tragedies has to be the normalization of mental illness and sexual assault among adults. Terms such as “depression” and “anxiety” have become ordinary to us.  We are no longer completely surprised when we see horrifying cases of rape and assault constantly in the news. The sad truth is that 1 in 5 adults will experience mental illness in their lifetime and 1 in 3 women will be victims of sexual assault during their life. There is so much work to be done to lower these numbers and make the world a happier place. This is why current second-year graduate student Shylettra Davis has dedicated her Master’s project to develop a better practice for screening those who experience mental illness or sexual assault.

Over the past few months, Davis has teamed up with associate teaching professor Dr. Leslie Miles and associate professor Dr. Julie Valentine to tackle this project. For their research, they collected data from and studied over 5000 cases of sexual assault. What they learned is that a majority of sexual assault have had a form of depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder. “Basically,” Davis says, “those who experience mental illness are more vulnerable to be victimized than someone who doesn’t experience a mental illness.”

For that reason, Davis’ project is to improve the quality of nursing care for patients that struggle with mental illness. “I want health care professionals and nurses to ask about any sexual assault history and help the patient understand that they are at risk to be targeted by predators,” Davis explains.

Davis also knows that it is easy for a victim to develop another mental illness if they are assaulted and aren’t able to deal with it and be treated professionally. Victims can easily feel isolated, lost and confused about what happened. “At the end of the day, we want patients to feel empowered,” Davis says.

Inspired by her work, Davis took her research and gave a presentation at the American Psychiatric Nurses Association in New Orleans in October. Dr. Miles accompanied Davis at the conference. While presenting their poster, they received a lot of interest from psych mental health professionals from all across the country.

Davis knows that they are off to a good start in raising awareness to this topic that sometimes isn’t discussed enough. “The biggest thing we need to do is to be aware of what is going on. When we are on high alert, we can watch out for one another and stop possible attacks.” Prevention through learning and understanding is key.

She is not alone in understanding the effects of mental illness and in having personal experience working with and being close to people who have been victims of sexual assault. Her desire to help better the lives of those victims have been her motivation for her project. “Sometimes they just need someone who recognizes what they are feeling,” Davis explains, “I can’t imagine what it would be like to walk around with that burden. I wish we could prevent everyone from having to suffer through those experiences. That’s what I try to do.” Let us all join in with Davis in making the world a better place!

 

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.”