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Trekking for Cultural Understanding

Amy Boswell looked down at her hiking shoes and sighed. The deep tread on the bottom had long since filled with mud and was now useless. She had known there would be a lot of trekking on the trip, but this went beyond that. Going straight up the mountain, no switchback trails, she wondered how the native guides ahead of her did this day in and day out. Suddenly her foot slipped. Startled, sliding, skidding, she fell. Finally stopping, covered with mud, she looked up to see a smiling guide, hand stretched out to help her back up.

In spring 2016 BYU College of Nursing students traveled to Vietnam for the first time. There they experienced a clinical practicum for the Public and Global Health Nursing course unlike any other. Students journeyed to a remote region in northern Vietnam, visited the hill tribes there, lived with local families, and provided instruction on healthcare. This cultural immersion provided an exceptional experience for students to gain perspective they will apply in their future careers.

 

THE PREPARATION

Associate teaching professor Cheryl A. Corbett (BS ’89, MS ’96) knew she needed to find a site where students could learn from a truly foreign culture. She knew Vietnam would fit the bill, but she did not know how enthusiastic students would be.

“One of my concerns was if I would have students who would want this kind of experience,” Corbett says. “We needed students who could sleep with the bugs, live in the rafters with the people, and eat their unique foods—things which might put someone out of their comfort zone.”

Corbett pressed forward with her plan and traveled to Vietnam for a two-week scouting trip. She found great clinical opportunities among some amazing people and came back ready to take students who were willing and ready to go on an adventure.

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THE TREKKING

Nestled near the Chinese border in the hills of northern Vietnam is a town called Sa Pa. Residents include people from several ethnic minorities, including the Hmong, who also live in scattered tribes across the surrounding countryside. Nursing students spent three weeks trekking up and down mountains to reach these villages. With the help of their three Hmong guides, the nursing students were able to reach several isolated communities, sometimes hiking 10 to 12 miles per day.

“Our guides were literally in slip-on sandals running up and down the mountains,” says Boswell, a sixth-semester nursing student. “Here we were in these beautiful hiking shoes slipping and falling everywhere we went. I remember one guide, named Mai (we called her Mama). She would always help us up after a fall. I especially had a reputation for falling up and down the mountains.”

With the nearest healthcare facility more than eight hours away, students had to rely on their own abilities and use caution. However, even though the trekking was more intense than expected, the group realized it was worth it as they became immersed in the unique culture.

“The people in the hill tribes are shy, but they want to share,” says associate teaching professor Karen M. Lundberg (AS ’79). “Our Hmong guides were able to get us into tiny villages that we wouldn’t have been able to get into otherwise.”

The group found that simply spending time with the people worked best to help them open up. Rather than quickly asking to see homes and healing practices, they stopped and took the time to communicate with them through gestures, smiles, and exchanges. And with the help of their guides, the students felt the Hmong people become receptive.

 

HMONG HEALING PRACTICES

None of the group members will ever forget the elderly female shaman they came across performing a ceremony in one of the villages. The Hmong people believe they have a certain number of spirits in their body. When they get sick the spirits leave, and it becomes necessary for a shaman to perform rituals to collect the spirits and put them back in the bodies of patients. The memorable healing ceremony included the shaman sacrificing a duck.

Following the experience, group members were struck by the reaction from the people of the village. Lundberg recalls the trust that developed because they were accepting of the Hmong culture. “After we had that experience, the shaman asked us to see one of her grandchildren, who suffered from something like cerebral palsy,” Lundberg says. “She wanted to know if the child could be cured if he went to the hospital; the family wanted our opinion. I believe if we had just walked in and asked if there were something we could teach or do, they wouldn’t have let us in to see this child.”

Although a hospital trip wouldn’t have cured the child, students were able to provide him with care to make him more comfortable. They found this developmentally delayed child lying in a state of atrophy. His feet had been tangled in a fishing net so tight that it cut off his circulation. The students checked his skin for breakdown, cut the nets off his toes, and explained what needed to be done to further care for him. The students smiled at the child and called him by name, hoping to provide the comfort he needed.

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TEACHING AND LEARNING

Throughout their experience students learned how to build trust and listen to the people, incorporating Hmong beliefs with Western medicine to create healing together. They were also able to teach some simple healthcare practices and deliver much-needed supplies.

Eyesight is crucial in Hmong culture. Villagers make all of their own clothing, from growing the hemp plants to dyeing the finished product. The women are expected to do intricate hand stitching on all their clothing, but as they get older, they cannot see up close and can no longer be productive.

Corbett remembers distributing reading glasses they brought to these Hmong women. “To watch them put on these glasses and see a whole new world open up was so amazing,” she says. “They could see little things again. Seeing their smiling faces made me think of how much we take eyesight for granted… Getting these eyeglasses was like the best present they ever had.”

Students also got to teach dental hygiene and hand-washing techniques to the Hmong people they met along the way. The students were happy to give away toothbrushes and eager to teach good practices. They found that many families had only one toothbrush to share and would often use it for cleaning purposes, including scrubbing the mud from their shoes when they got home from the rice fields

LIVING AMONG THE HMONG

The BYU group spent nights in the homes of the people they were visiting. They slept on mats in rafters where the families usually store their rice. During long treks and the quiet nights in the villages, students had time to reflect on the people they were around.

Boswell found the generosity of the Hmong people particularly impressive. “While trekking, those we met would invite us into their home, asking if we had eaten that day and if they could share their rice,” she says. “The Hmong people have so much less to give than I do, and they were so willing at any second to just give it. I came back realizing I need to open my heart and be more hospitable and kind to people.”

The group was also impressed by the Hmong family dynamic as the villagers sat together on the dirt floors of their homes and cooked over open fires. The Throughout their experience students and families would have dinner together, talk together, and laugh together.

“Dinnertime is notable for the Hmong,” Lundberg says. “Even though they just have one small light bulb hanging over the table, they sit around and talk and laugh late into the night. It was so awesome seeing how connected the families were, with several generations living in the same home.”

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GIVING BACK

The Hmong people are subsistence farmers. During the planting season, whatever rice they plant is what they will live off of for the next year.

In one village, the students found a widow who was unable to get her rice planted. Instead of just observing her predicament, the students got to work in the rice paddy.

Corbett remembers how much the group learned from this experience. “Rather than put on someone else’s shoes to learn about them, we had to take ours off,” she says. “We were in the mud up to our knees for over five hours doing backbreaking work. It was so eye-opening to learn the intricate process of planting. . . . I think we all left with a new appreciation for rice. None of us ever want to let a single grain of rice fall off a table ever again.”

 

BRINGING IT BACK HOME

Even though their Public and Global Health Nursing course was not in a hospital setting, students found that the things they learned had extraordinary applications in their own healthcare practice.

“When students step out of their ethnocentric viewpoint, they gain the ability to see the world in a different way,” Corbett says. “They can take that and use it whenever they treat a patient from another culture. They can understand the patient’s belief and use that to help heal them.”

And students learned that cultural beliefs can vary from patient to patient. They found that some Hmong people were culturally opposed to a hospital visit while others would choose the option when they need it.

“You can’t just assume something about an individual based on the culture,” says Megan Zitting (BS ’09, MS ’16), a graduate student who came on the trip as an assistant. “What an individual believes about healthcare and what they desire the moment they’re sick and need treatment might be completely different.”

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LOOKING FORWARD

The inaugural Vietnam trip provided an excellent foundation for coming trips. This year organizers plan on helping the Hmong trek guides learn first-aid and dental-hygiene education and practices.

Students will continue to bring a minimal amount of first-aid and dental hygiene items. They do not want to change the Hmong people, just provide them with healthcare concepts. “We want them to be self-sufficient and not rely on outsiders bringing things to them. Our plan is to bring materials they wouldn’t have access to but need,” Corbett says.

Zitting adds, “You have to dig deep and establish connections in a place before you can help them. You have to be able to see what their needs are and see what you actually can or cannot do to help them. Some people have this idea that they can just help people everywhere, but it takes some time and relationship building to be able to get in there and make a difference. And we’ve got a great start in Vietnam.”

This story was published in our spring 2017 college magazine. It was written by Nathan Brown, a college student employee.

Nursing College Names New Associate Deans; Current Dean Reinstated

 

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Pictured left to right: Jane Lassetter, Kathy Whitenight, Patricia Ravert, and Katreena Merrill.

Professor Dr. Jane H. Lassetter has been named as the new associate dean for graduate studies and scholarly works and contribution to the discipline. Also associate professor Dr. Katreena Merrill was named as the associate dean for undergraduate studies.

 

NewAssocDean1Lassetter (AS ’81, BS ’98, MS ’01) PhD, RN, is a college alumnus and received three BYU nursing degrees before obtaining a terminal degree in nursing from Oregon Health Sciences University in 2008. She recently completed a graduate certificate in Healthcare Ethics from Creighton University. Lassetter was honored with the BYU Muriel Thole Teaching and Learning Faculty Fellowship last August. She is the president of the International Family Nursing Association, and Governor-at-Large for the Western Institute of Nursing. She was also inducted in 2015 as a member of the Western Academy of Nursing. Her research focuses on childhood obesity and the roles of families and culture. She is replacing Dr. Mary Williams who served in this position for 27-years.

newassocdean2.jpgMerrill (AS ’83, BS ’85) PhD, RN, is also an alumna of the nursing college and received a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Utah in 2011. She was recently inducted into the National Academies of Practice, and was given the College of Nursing’s 2017 Dr. Elaine Dyer Research Endowment Award, as well as receive its Myrtie Fulton Nursing Award in 2011. Her research and faculty specialties deal with quality improvement, patient safety, and nursing leadership in acute-care settings. As such she was honored with the Marriner S. Eccles Foundation Scholarship Award in 2006 and a Nursing Excellence Award from Intermountain Healthcare Urban South Region in 2005. She is replacing Dr. Kent Blad who was in this role the past five years.

Associate professor Dr. Williams (BS ’71) PhD, RN, began in this job at the start of the 1990 academic year and worked under five college deans. While the exact wording of her title may have changed over the years, she was responsible for the graduate program and for the scholarly works efforts of the college (which included faculty research and contribution to the discipline). Her service was recognized in 2009 with the university’s Wesley P. Lloyd Award for Distinction in Graduate Education. Williams’ College knowledge and insight allowed her to chair the college’s 40th-, 50th– and 60th-anniversary celebrations.

Teaching professor Dr. Blad (MS ’99) DNP, FNP-c, ACNP-BC, FCCM, FAANP developed the veteran section of the clinical practicum for public and global health nursing course, in which nursing students are taught how to care for the veteran population and then during spring term spend a week in Washington, DC, learning firsthand from various veterans and veteran groups, historical sites and clinical settings. Students also serve as guardians to veterans on a yearly college-sponsored Utah Honor Flight experience (which takes veterans to Washington, DC to view war memorials and historic sites in their honor). Blad received a presidential citation for Contributions to the Society of Critical Care Medicine from the Society of Critical Care Medicine earlier this year.

Additionally, Dr. Patricia K. Ravert was asked by the University to continue as Nursing Dean for a second term, effective July 1. While this was shared with College faculty and staff in March, it was never publicly announced.

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Dean and professor Ravert (AS ’74, BS ’75, MS ’94) PhD, RN, CNE, ANEF, FAAN is a pioneer in nursing simulation and is a national leader in the development of virtual learning scenarios. In March 2015, Mometrix Test Preparation released a listing of the 30 most influential nursing deans in the nation. Dr. Ravert was listed at the 19th position on this prestigious list.

 

She also received the 2009 Excellence in the Academic Setting Award from the International Association of Clinical Simulation and Learning, and a 2006 Excellence in Research Award from Sigma Theta Tau, Iota Iota Chapter at Large (the university’s nursing honor society chapter).

Assistant dean Kathy A. Whitenight MBA, remains in her current position and oversees resource management for the College.

Help Celebrate the College of Nursing’s 65th Anniversary

 

To recognize the 65th anniversary of the Brigham Young University College of Nursing—established on September 29, 1952—we’re inviting all alumni and students to help celebrate. Since the influence of our program is known worldwide, we’re wondering, “Where will the college logo travel in the next few months?”

From now until September, we are asking our alums and students to do the following:

  1. Cut out/use the college logo from the 2017 college spring magazine (page 13) or print the image from above.
  2. Bring the logo with you on your journeys—near and far—this spring and summer.
  3. Take a photo of you, your family, or your friends with the logo in front of your favorite location.
  4. Post your images on Facebook or Instagram and use the hashtag #Ynursing52.

 

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Kaylee Hunsaker at National Institute of Health in Washington, DC

If you are not planning any trips, no need to worry. Snap an image in your backyard, community, or workplace. These photos will track all of the adventures and accomplishments of our alumni and students. We’re planning a display in the fall 2017 issue of the magazine, during Homecoming, and at the Scholarly Works Conference in October. To be considered for inclusion in the fall magazine, entries must be received by June 15; otherwise, photos are due September 15.

 

You don’t do social media? Email high-resolution photos (JPG file in original size) to nursingpr@byu.edu, or mail them to BYU College of Nursing, 65th Anniversary Celebration, 572 SWKT, Provo, UT 84602.

Let’s see how far our celebration can go! Who will take the logo with them? Stay tuned.

 

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Cory Paul (BS’17) in Antarctica 

 

Learning from a Military Nurse

There are very few people who can talk about NATO, nursing, and kimchi in the same conversation. Assistant teaching professor Debra Wing is one of them.

Wing’s passion for nursing started while she was young. That passion also runs in the family: one of Wing’s nursing professors at Weber State University was her older sister.

“I have always felt that nursing was paramount,” Wing says. “To me the one-on-one aspect that you give to your patient and the love and respect that you offer them is an opportunity to show them you are walking in the Savior’s shoes. You are truly His representative.”

Spotlight--DebraWingThe emphasis on providing care in the Savior’s way has served Wing immensely during her career.

Both Wing and her husband served in the U.S. Air Force as medical personnel. They have had joint assignments with NATO and with the Surgeon General of the Air National Guard office. “My husband is a hospital administrator, so he ran hospitals for the air force all over the world,” she says. “We’ve been able to see some fascinating things.” Her husband is a veteran of three wars, while Wing is a veteran of two.

“I’ve worked just about everywhere you can work in a hospital setting,” Wing says. Her list of assignments is almost as extensive as the list of countries that she and her husband have visited and lived in (42 between the two of them). These include being a charge nurse, a nurse manager, a chief nurse executive, and a school nurse. Additionally she served as the clinical oversite for EMEDS (Expeditionary Medical Support) training for the Air National Guard.

“EMEDS is the modern version of MASH. I had the responsibility to train physicians, nurses, techs, and dentists in wartime delivery of care in trauma,” Wing says. In fact this assignment was where Wing first became acquainted with simulation training, which she has used in her college positions at BYU since joining the faculty in 2010.

With these military assignments came travel. Of all the places the family lived, Turkey was a favorite. “My children will say that they’re half Turkish,” Wing jokes.

One of her most impactful experiences was in a Turkish airport when her then 3-year-old son was lost in a crowd. Having heard horror stories about Turkey, she feared for his safety. After two hours of searching, Wing’s husband found their son safe and sound with a Turkish security guard. A traveler had come across the wandering child and brought him to the guard, who did not speak English. While efforts were made to locate his parents, the guard calmed the weeping toddler by bringing him ice cream and attempting conversation, despite the language barrier. The tenderness of the moment altered Wing’s perception of the Turkish people forever. “That was a changing point for me,” she says.

Last year Wing and her husband returned from a military relations mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in South Korea. Back at BYU now, she teaches Community Health Nursing, Strategies for employment, and leads a clinical practicum for the Public and Global Health Nursing course in Finland/Czech Republic each spring.

“I love the students,” she says. “There is something so exciting about watching the students grow and progress, and things that were so difficult for them at the beginning of the nursing program are second nature by the time they get to capstone, and then to see them integrate everything they’ve learned in a capstone experience—I think that is my favorite.”

Wing and her husband have three children and three grandchildren, whom she describes as the joy of her life.

Looking Back: Two Nursing Students Reflect As They Graduate

Spencer Marsh

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Spencer Marsh did not know what he wanted to be when he entered BYU in 2010. He took Econ 110 and calculus, but when he left for his mission he was still unsure about where the future would take him.

His mission to the Navajo reservation in Farmington, New Mexico helped him narrow down his options.

“On my mission we helped out a lot of people, and we did a lot of service projects,” Marsh says. Marsh found that he enjoyed helping people, but he still wanted to make a living.

When he returned, nursing suddenly became a viable option since it combined service with a steady salary. After two semesters, Marsh got in the nursing program. That’s when the intensive and occasionally draining experience known as nursing school started.

“It’s been busy, just a lot of work,” he says.

Marsh, a native of Portland, Oregon, struggled during his first two semesters to adjust to the strenuous workload. However, he made an important choice that allowed him to make it through the program.

“After the first two semesters, I decided that I needed to relax and go enjoy life, and the semesters after that were a lot better,” he says.

An avid outdoorsman, Marsh can often be found outdoors climbing or hiking.

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Looking back on the past few years, Marsh sees ways that his experience in the College of Nursing has changed him. He loved working with everyone in his semester and doing the various labs in the Mary Jane Rawlins Geertsen Nursing Learning Center. Completing his capstone in ER also helped Marsh learn to love patients rather than judge them.

“It made me more compassionate,” he says. “It made me look at the world differently. It’s made me a little less cynical about the world.” His supervisor also allowed him to work somewhat independently, preparing for his future career.

After taking the NCLEX, Marsh will move to Temple, Texas to work as an ER nurse. His wife is scheduled to give birth to their first child shortly after they arrive there.

Marsh’s advice to incoming nursing students is to “chill out.” Doing so will help them focus and get the most out of their college experience.

“Study and go do fun things,” he says. “Don’t just study.”

Ashea Hanna

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Ashea Hanna does not mince words when she talks about her entrance to the BYU College of Nursing.

“I honestly believe it was divine intervention,” she says.

Now three years later, she looks back on her time in the program and sees how far she has come.

“I’ve always wanted to go into healthcare because I knew that’s where I wanted to be,” she says. She had considered being a doctor, but the years and years of study seemed daunting. Her mother recommended nursing. At first she was reluctant since she thought nurses were constantly being bossed around by doctors. Now, she jokes with a smile, she knows “nurses do all the real work.”

She finally decided to pursue nursing since it offered a steady job and the chance to have a family. Her decision was confirmed repeatedly to her as she progressed through the program. One of her most important experiences was sitting in Gaye Raye’s 294 class and realizing just how much this career path suited her.

That’s not to say that the experience has been easy.

“I think that it has challenged me academically, mentally, and physically and emotionally,” she says. “It’s pushed me to my limits and helped me see farther than my potential.”

The sheer intensity of studying nursing helped her to see more of who she is. It’s reaffirmed a lot of what she thought about herself and her abilities, and in other ways it has increased her vision of what she can accomplish.

“It’s shaped me and molded me into who I am,” she says.

One of her best resources has been her fellow students. She says that she loves everyone in her semester and that she has been privileged to make many close friends within the program.
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For new students, she offers advice similar to Marsh’s.

“There’s a lot of stress coming in because it’s a prestigious and challenging program and you’re set to a high expectation separate from BYU itself, but you have to take care of yourself,” she says. “The 4.0, even though it’s a nice number, don’t let that be the only thing.”

In her spare time, Hanna goes to ward activities, plays sports, and spends time with friends. She also works. All this combines to help relieve her of the stress that is typical of the program.

Hanna is currently sorting through various job opportunities and working to decide which is best for her.

The BYU College of Humanities Teaches Me Two Languages; The BYU College of Nursing Taught Me Another

When I was offered the Public Relations Assistant position for the BYU College of Nursing Dean’s office, I had no idea that my experience learning a second language would come in handy.

I am an English and Portuguese double major. I served my mission in Curitiba, Brazil where I first learned Portuguese, and I now study the language every day. While I haven’t once had the privilege to use my Portuguese language skills in the office or on assignment, I have used the skills I acquired while learning the language.

Nursing has its own set of words, a different vocabulary list if you will. Every day I come into the office and learn a new set of words whether about anatomy, about treatment, or about the organization of the nursing program itself. Just like a foreigners accept you while you struggle to speak their language, the faculty, staff, and students of the College of Nursing accepted me while learning to navigate the tower, the Mary Jane Rawlins Geertsen Nursing Learning Center, and the lingo.

In every interview I held, I had to ask questions to clarify basic nursing concepts and nursing programs. Frequently I had to Google definitions. Some days were harder than others were; however, I will always remember my experience learning this new language.

While I was learning new terms and definitions, I was also exposed to an environment of love and mutual support. The College of Nursing claims to be teaching the Healer’s art, and from my experience talking with faculty, staff, and students, that teaching is fulfilled. The students have a wonderful source of professors and advisors to look to for help. These professors and advisors not only teach and guide here at BYU but they also do clinicals on top of having their own families.

The language that I learned here does not only incorporate terms and definitions, but also behavior and practice. Nurses are incredible, and I hope that if I ever need to go to the hospital that I will be in the care of a BYU nurse. Their language is love and respect. I hope to one day become fluent in this language of mutual support and perfect charity, so that I to can practice a form of the Healer’s art.

“Discovered in Argentina”

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. 

 

Discovered in Argentina

Rachel Contreras-Spencer (BS ’04)

Once in a while everyone has one of those incredible experiences where one learns there is more to nursing than just the application of secular knowledge. I had the opportunity to experience such a moment in Argentina while working at a public maternity hospital. I learned to go beyond what I had learned in nursing school and discovered something that cannot be taught. Seemingly forgotten, those babies in the “abandoned” section have taught me more than they’ll ever know and will live on in my memory forever.

I had the privilege of going as a BYU nursing student to work in a maternity hospital in Argentina. The hospital was one like I had imagined it would be in a second or third world country. It had six or seven floors, old tile, broken windows, no toilet paper or soap for the patients or doctors, about one nurse for every forty-plus mothers, and one nurse for every sixteen-plus intensive care infants. There were no private rooms to rejoice in when the newborn was delivered into this world. There were no private rooms for mothers to grieve in when they experienced the loss of their creation.

I had worked in the labor room and the post partum floors; on my last day, it was finally my turn to help in the NICU. I started feeding the babies and taking temperatures. When I was finished, a corner of the room caught my eye. I asked about the babies in this section, and learned they were there because they were sick and/or abandoned.

It was known as the abandoned section because many of the parents of the sick babies couldn’t afford to pay for medical costs. Parents were left with no alternative but to leave their child there in the hands of the government who would then pay to have them treated, if they didn’t die first. The price parents paid was to never be able to see their child again. Once they signed the paper, they weren’t allowed to visit or care for their child. Unfortunately, if the mother was not there to take care of her baby, it was usually the last task of the day for the nurses. Their priority was in taking care of the babies who had parents who could pay for needed medical treatments, so these were the forgotten or “abandoned” ones.

The first one I came across was named Jose Ariel, and he indeed looked as though he had been forgotten. He had a heart abnormality and was lying in a little metal basket with a wet sheet, which reeked of emesis. He was not wearing any clothes and his diaper was overflowing. I fed him, cleaned him up, and gave him one of the blankets and clothing articles which I brought from generous people back home. He loved the attention and was able to fall right to sleep.

I then moved on to Ivan, who had hydrocephalus. He was three months old at the time and was scheduled to have a shunt placed within the next two days. The pressure that had built up was incredible. He had “sundowner’s eyes” so severe that I could see only the whites of his eyes. His head weighed about twice as much as the rest of his body, and Ivan had not developed neck muscles strong enough to hold up his head.

I went over, picked him up and cradled him in my arms. I noticed the towel he’d been laying on was also wet, only it had no odor. I bathed him, clothed him and held him. I had also been watching his temperature and noticed there was a steady increase. It had gone up to 101.4. I spoke with some of the other student nurses who had been in there before, and they told me that a day or two before, the nurses had tried to relieve some of the pressure in Ivan’s head by getting a little of the fluid out with a syringe needle, but they neglected to place a bandage on his head. It soon occurred to me that the sheet was wet with cerebral spinal fluid.

I notified the pediatrician and she said she’d be there when she finished making rounds. For me it seemed like an eternity. She confirmed that Ivan was leaking spinal fluid and most likely had an infection because his wound was left uncovered. Concerned about Ivan’s upcoming surgery, I asked if it was likely they would go ahead and operate anyway. She replied it would be up to the surgeon.

When my arms grew tired of holding him, I tried to put him down, but he just cried uncontrollably.  He loved being held, as if he had been starved for human contact. I had another student nurse hold him while I went to look for a bottle, which was no easy task. Returning about a half hour later, I held and fed him. He was ravenously hungry. I held him for hours and was able to feed him again before I left. I was the last to leave the unit and my fellow students waited for me in the van. No one came in to hurry me along, because there was an unspoken understanding.

While I held Ivan, I had plenty of time to think and reflect. I wondered what the future held for him. I watched as he lay complacently in my arms and wondered what kind of perfect spirit was inside his imperfect body. I played out in my mind the day I would be able to meet him in his perfect form after this life, and how happy I would be to see him, hug him, and talk to him. I reflected on how much I had been given in my life and how much I therefore was obligated to give. I thought about the Savior and how He loves all of God’s children.

I loved that I had the opportunity to help ease his great pain, if only for a day. The care I provided was not medical by definition; it was compassion and love. I loved that I was able to help the helpless. I know that if I had not been there as a student giving service, Ivan wouldn’t have been held and comforted. I would not have had the opportunity to show him there was someone who cared. I would have missed the lesson of a lifetime. It reaffirmed to me that I was supposed to be a nurse. I know of no greater profession wherein lies the opportunity to help heal others, both physically and spiritually.

My heart and mind go back to that place often and wonder if he ever made it to surgery and through recovery. I have since made a commitment to myself and to those I serve, that I will serve them as the Savior would serve them if He were here in my place. I want to convey to them my concern for their well being whether it is medical, emotional, or otherwise. I want them to know they are important. I want to learn The Healer’s Art, and my journey has just begun.