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Incoming Nursing Students Kick-off the New Year at Orientation Dinner

Class is back in session at BYU. For 64 lucky students, that means the days of taking “pre-req classes” are finally over! They are now official BYU College of Nursing students. On Monday, they gathered in the Wilkinson Student Center to reflect on their journey as they enjoyed a special orientation dinner with the Dean.

“I’m super excited to be here,” Melanie Rugg shared. “Being a nurse is my life-long dream, so to me there’s nothing better than being here right now!”

“I feel really uplifted and touched by the importance of this profession,” Katy Harrison added. “I’m excited to finally get started in the nursing program.”

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These new students come with a wide range of unique experiences and backgrounds. In total, the new class has representatives from nineteen different states, as well as the countries of Mexico and Bolivia. Of the 64 students, just over 20 percent are entering the program after serving missions for the LDS Church.

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“We really are so fortunate to have such great students in the program,” dean Dr. Patricia Ravert said in her address to the new students. After the dean’s remarks, associate dean Dr. Katreena Merrill shared her gratitude and excitement with the new class during a group discussion. She was quickly followed by associate dean Dr. Jane Lassetter, who bore a powerful testimony of the mission of the College of Nursing: “Learning the Healer’s Art.”

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“It was very inspiring,” Sydney McBride said of the orientation dinner. “This program is a really hard program to get into. I feel like coming into the program we put a lot of emphasis on getting the highest test scores and quiz scores. This orientation has really brought into focus what the nursing program is really all about — making sure we not only have the knowledge we need, but also the passion and love so we can help our patients.”

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An Act of Love

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. 

An Act of Love

Laura Linton

In my last semester in nursing school, my rotation was in labor and delivery. I was assigned to a hospital that worked with an adoption agency for girls from another state. I went to clinical on Monday and during report, the night nurse told us about one of the girls in labor. At the age of seventeen, Michelle conceived through an assault from her father, who was divorced from her mother.

Michelle did not communicate much with the nurses or her family. The night nurse suggested we care for her one-on-one so she could receive better attention and care. During the day we found out a little bit more about the family. Michelle discovered she was pregnant when she started to feel the baby move (about four months). She tried to find out if she could have an abortion but it was too late. Michelle finally told her mother at eight months. They found out about the adoption agency that sends girls to Utah, because the adoptive parents live throughout Utah. Michelle and her mother decided that was the best thing to do, so they came to Utah for the delivery, even though the mother lost her job.

Throughout the day, the mother would talk with us, yet Michelle would only say a few words. One time I went in to check on her alone, without my nurse or the girl’s mother. I started joking around and tried to see how she was really doing. After a couple of minutes Michelle started to smile and glanced at me for a second. Then a little while later she kind of laughed, made eye contact, and actually had a pleasant facial expression. Throughout the day she grew to be more comfortable with me and told me how she was feeling. She was very scared. She was in a lot of pain, not only physical, but emotional. She said that she did not want to hold the baby after the birth, but did want to see the baby. She did not want to remember this as her first child. She wanted to have a family right; not the way this baby had been conceived. She had a stack of letters from possible parents sitting on her bed table. We all looked through them to see if we could pick out the perfect parents for the baby. She decided on one family if it was a girl and another one if it was a boy.

That afternoon Michelle delivered a very healthy, beautiful baby boy. He was perfect in every way. It was hard to believe what his mother had gone through to have him. We showed her the baby, asked again if she wanted to hold him. “No,” she said, so we took him to the nursery.

The next day I came back for clinical and was assigned to the post partum side. In report, we found out Michelle wanted to have the baby in her room during the night and then decided to keep him. She was sobbing all night and not verbally communicating with the nurses. Everyone was worried because the family did not have a place to live. (They had been staying in shelters for the last month.) Neither Michelle or her mother had a job or any money, and they had no place to go. They would have to reimburse the adoption agency for all the services the agency had already provided and try and find a place to go after leaving the hospital. Also, Michelle was not emotionally prepared for such a huge responsibility, especially knowing how she conceived the child. She asked to talk to a counselor to try and work things out.

Because of the time I spent with Michelle the day before and the rapport we had developed, the other nurses wanted me to care for her. I went in to find out how she was doing. Her mother was excited to see me, but Michelle wouldn’t look at me and didn’t really answer my questions. Her mother said she had never been the type to talk to anyone, and was quiet about her feelings and the issues she was dealing with.

I went back in a little bit later, sat on Michelle’s bed, put my hand on hers, and said, “I heard that you had a rough night. What happened?” The tears started pouring down her face. I held her hand more tightly, waiting a moment, until I said softly, “Do you want to keep your baby?” The tears came harder and she nodded and looked up at me and said, “Yes.” “That must be so hard to carry a baby for nine months, see such a beautiful boy and then give him up,” I replied. She nodded. “So what are you going to do?” I asked. She sat there for a moment, looked up at me again, and said, “I don’t know.”

“You must love him so much.” “Yes,” she said. I then talked with Michelle about what would happen if she kept the baby, where they would go, and what she would do. She knew the baby wouldn’t have a good life, because she didn’t even know where she was going. I shared an experience about a friend, Karen, who gave her baby up for adoption. Karen said it was the hardest thing that she had ever done. She held the baby for a couple hours, but in the end she gave the baby up.  Karen said that she loved the baby so much that she did the best thing for the baby, which was the hardest for her. She gave the baby a wonderful family that promised to take care of her and love her for eternity.

Michelle looked up at me and said, “She did that?” “Yes, she did, and she did it out of love.” I said, “If you give up this baby I know that you are doing it out of how much you love him. I do know it will be the most painful thing you have had to do so far in your life.” As she looked up at me, still with tears streaming down her face, I said, “And it is okay to cry: you need to grieve.” She held my hand tightly and sighed. It was like she needed that permission to hurt.

We talked for a while longer, looked at the adoptive families again, and talked about what the baby needed. Throughout the next couple of hours, I spent as much time as I could with her. The hospital counselor and the adoption agency representative came and spoke to her.

That afternoon Michelle decided she would give the baby up for adoption. I was there as she signed the papers with tears dripping down her cheeks. I know it was difficult to come to that decision, and I know she will grieve. I know she will physically heal from giving birth to her baby, but I also know she will forever carry the memory of her first child. I hope the memory will not always be painful. Even though I didn’t do much for her, she had someone to talk with. I gave her permission to hurt, which gave her a little bit of reassurance and strength. That day I had a taste of the art of healing by using the simple act of caring.

 

Strong Character and Values Are Just as Important as Knowledge

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Whether nursing students are learning about safe patient handling, isolation precautions, or bowel elimination, there is always something that I have learned that applies to building my character as I continue in my career of becoming a nurse. This has taught that no matter what we learn, the true point is to shape our character to provide the best care possible.

The idea of strengthening values and building character also influenced my actions in my clinical experience [last] semester. I had the opportunity to work at a nursing home and dealt with many patients who had a variety of health problems.

One week, I was working with a patient. (I’ll call her Katie.) I was nervous to work with this patient as a new student nurse. Not only did she suffer from hemiplegia and paraplegia, which severely limited her movement, she also could not speak.

She had suffered a stroke a few years back and had lost her ability to talk. Her only speech was three nonsensical syllables that she would say over and over again. She communicated by the tone of her voice saying those syllables and by moving the one arm that she still had control over.

Nothing in nursing school had prepared me for this. How was I supposed to help someone that could not even express to me what she needed? I spent over an hour looking for her glasses that first day. She became upset with me, and I left at the end of the day feeling extremely frustrated.

That weekend I completed my mid-semester evaluation where one of the categories was evaluating my caring ability. I rated myself on how I met my client’s biopsychosocial needs in a caring and compassionate manner. I knew this was something I needed to improve and I remembered back to my N295 Fundamentals class, where the professor would explain that the important lesson was not just the knowledge that we learned but how it contributed to our character and values.

I went to the care center the following week with a renewed resolve on how to care for my patient.

Since this was the second week caring for Katie, I knew more of her daily routine. I was able to get her ready for breakfast, but we arrived 20 minutes early, and preparation for breakfast was underway.

I saw a piano in the room and asked if she had ever played the piano. She nodded that she had, and then motioned to ask me if I knew how to play. I responded in the affirmative and she pointed at me again to go to the piano as if she wanted me to play.

I knew accompaniment was not in the scope of my duties as a student nurse. However I had promised myself to do all that I could to care for her, so I sat down at the piano. The only book on the piano was an LDS hymnal; I knew she was LDS, so I started playing for her.

The amazing thing was that even though she could not speak, the stroke did not affect the area of her brain that dealt with singing. She sang the notes of the melody to every song I played. I have never seen someone happier than Katie at that moment. For a brief time, I even had the whole room singing a hymn with me.

When finished, even though she could not fully express it, I knew she was thankful that I played the piano. I appreciate the opportunity to go out of my comfort zone and do my best to be sensitive to Katie’s needs, even though what I did was not a normal nursing duty.

The next week at the care center I found out that Katie had passed away. I am thankful that I took the advice of my professor and worked attentively to meet Katie’s needs and lift her spirits. I am blessed to know that in her final days, I was able to provide the best care possible.

Winner of the college’s annual essay contest, Claire Hunsaker is a third-semester nursing student from El Dorado Hills, California.

Blood, Sweat, and Tears: What Happens When Nursing Meets Rugby

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Nursing student Ali Smith goes in for a hard tackle during a BYU Women’s Rugby match against University of California

For four and a half years, Ali Smith lived what some people might call a double life. By day, Smith was a smiling, gentle-mannered nursing student in one of the most demanding academic programs at BYU. Few would have guessed that by nightfall, Smith’s smiling face would be covered in the blood, sweat, and tears of one of BYU’s most aggressive contact sports.

Smith has been a member of the BYU Women’s Rugby team ever since her very first semester at BYU; a journey that transformed her from an inexperienced benchwarmer to veteran starter in a National Title game. Now a capstone student in the nursing program, Smith has had to take a step away from the rugby pitch to focus on her clinicals. However, she says that the lessons she learned from rugby have helped her become a better nurse.

Smith first joined the BYU Women’s Rugby team as a freshman — long before she submitted her application to the nursing program. Although she had never played rugby before, Smith quickly fell in love with the sport.

“Rugby is a very physical game, but it’s also a very mental game. There are days in practice where you can get really beat up and you’ll ask yourself “Why am I doing this?” You just got beat up for two hours and now you have to go home and do homework for the next three hours! But I really wanted to become better and be the best; whether it was perfecting my pass or perfecting my tackling form. And it was totally worth it!”

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Ali Smith sprints for a try. A try is the rugby equivalent of a touchdown in football.

Starting in late September and going through the month of May, the BYU Women’s Rugby team practices for 2+ hours every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. This is in addition to strength and conditioning sessions (every Tuesday and Thursday) and games on Saturdays. Despite this huge time commitment, Smith says it wasn’t uncommon for her to stay late after practice to work on passing or kicking with her teammates.

“I love the team dynamic of rugby,” Smith shares. “It’s such a neat experience when you’re able to get into a groove with the people you’re playing with; making good passes and making plays happen. You just get the sense that you’re part of something that’s bigger than you.”

After several semesters on the rugby team, Smith decided to expand her horizons even further. She applied, and was accepted, to the BYU College of Nursing. Suddenly Smith’s already busy schedule became much more demanding.

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Ali Smith with her Nursing peers at the Intermountain Healthcare Complex

“It never felt like I was ‘done’,” Smith explains. “I was constantly doing something. If I wasn’t studying for a test, I was thinking about a play I could use on the field. If I wasn’t in class or doing homework, I was on a run or on the pitch.”

But having a crazy schedule did have its benefits. Between strength training, midterms, practices, and clinicals, Smith says she developed excellent time management skills.

“When I was in class, I was focused on that class. When I was in rugby, I was focused on playing rugby. I didn’t have extra time in my day to practice rugby or give to my classes, so I needed to make every moment count. Most days I didn’t have 5 hours to study for a test; I only had 2-3 hours before I had to go to practice. But for me, that extra focus was a huge blessing because it helped me get everything done and be more productive. It helped me develop self-discipline; I couldn’t just put off my homework till later because I knew I wouldn’t have that time.”

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Once Smith entered the nursing program, she noticed that many of the principles she learned on the rugby pitch could also help her on the hospital floor.

“On the rugby team, I learned to be very encouraging and complimentary towards my teammates; especially when they performed well. They need to know that I’m there for them.”

“Sometimes you are in a game where the player who plays your position on the opposing team is really, really good, and you’re just having an off day,” Smith explains. “But because you have a team, they can help make up for what you’re lacking. I’ve seen that a lot in the hospital. There have been days where things have gotten really crazy and you think “There’s no way I can get to both of these patients at the same time” and just then another nurse will offer to help get meds for your patient. That really makes a huge difference. When you’re on a team, sometimes you can only do so much, but because you have that team dynamic things can still run as smoothly and efficiently as possible.”

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Ali Smith and her teammates, prior to a BYU Women’s Rugby match

This team dynamic is part of what makes the BYU Women’s Rugby team one of the top programs in the nation. The team has only lost three home games in ten years of collegiate competition. Last May, they won a tough semi-final match to earn a place in the National Championship Title game against the 10-time defending champions.

“I felt a lot of pressure walking onto the pitch of that national championship game,” Smith reflects. “I never thought that I would get there or be that good. But our team performed really well. And even though we didn’t win the match, it was still a whirlwind of an experience. To play in that game and represent BYU in that national title game was such an honor.”

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The BYU Women’s Rugby team after the 2016 National Championship match. BYU placed second in the tournament, after suffering a narrow loss to Penn State, 15-5.

Even though Smith may not have another chance to represent BYU on the rugby pitch, she says she’s extremely grateful for the experience and how it’s impacted her future nursing career.

“In a hospital, sometimes people are in critical condition counting under you to perform in really stressful, high-pressure situations. So just like how in rugby you train so we can play in those high-level games; in nursing we learn and gain skills and become good at what we do so that in that moment when someone needs you, you’re ready for it and you’re able to perform under pressure. I think that having experienced that on the rugby pitch, I’m better prepared to handle whatever stressful situation I may encounter as a nurse.”

 

Redefining Disability Awareness

According to the US Census Bureau, nearly 56.7 million people in the US struggle with some form of disability. That means that for every five people you meet on the street, at least one of them could be dealing with some unique physical, mental, or emotional challenge. But as a member of the College of Nursing media team has discovered, there’s more to that person than meets the eye.

Jonathan Schroeder is the newest member of the College of Nursing media team. He’s also part of a new social advocacy project working to change how people see and talk about disabilities.

“Sometimes, no matter how hard we try not to, we see people with disabilities differently,” Schroeder says. “When we think of Joe, the first thing we think of isn’t a brilliant student with a sense of humor; we think of the guy in a wheel chair. We don’t remember Suzy as a stunning artist; the first thing we think of is the girl who suffers from serious anxiety or depression. We forget that these people are so much more than the challenges they face.”

Schroeder and three of his friends started More Than What I Have (More Than), a project that is working to change how society sees disabilities.

“The goal of More Than is to recognize people for who they really are; not just the disability or challenge they might have,” says Kimball Vaughn, one of the project leads.

More Than showcases individuals with a wide range of disabilities; from well-known disabilities like Muscular Dystrophy and Cerebral Palsy to more obscure ones like Crohn’s Disease or Raynaud’s Syndrome.

“Not all disabilities are visible,” project videographer Dan Hainesworth explains. “There are a lot of people who struggle with disabilities/conditions like anxiety or depression. We need to be just as aware of their needs as we would be with someone in a wheelchair.”

But rather than just highlight the disability itself, More Than is trying to emphasize all the amazing things that people with disabilities do.

“We’ve found a lot of really cool stories,” Schroeder shares. “For example, there’s a guy on the BYU Cheer Squad that has MS and a girl with severe depression who is an amazing make-up artist. We’re hoping that once we get enough stories out there, that people will start to see those who struggle with disabilities as more than just ‘a disabled person.’”

The group recently launched a #MoreThanWhatIHave challenge to help celebrate BYU’s Disability Awareness Week (October 23 – October 27). Participants are invited to create a simple 10-15 second video and post it on social media with the hashtag #MoreThanWhatIHave.

“The video challenge is a really easy way for anybody to show support for those with disabilities,” Vaughn explains. “All you need to do is pull out your cellphone and talk about a challenge you struggle with. It could be stress, stage fright, ADHD, sleeping troubles – whatever you feel like sharing. Then tell us how you define yourself. Share how you are ‘More Than What You Have.’”

“We’re really excited about this challenge,” Schroeder adds. “We hope that once people start to see themselves as “more than their challenges” that it’ll be easier to do the same for people with disabilities.”

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College of Nursing Masterpiece Celebrates 25th Anniversary

Few BYU students may realize that one of the most iconic paintings on campus is celebrating its 25th anniversary this month. That’s because they can’t find this masterpiece in any traditional Museum of Art gallery or HFAC display, but in the nursing student lounge on the first floor of the Spencer W. Kimball Tower.

In 1992, the BYU College of Nursing commissioned former BYU professor Trevor Southey to paint a work entitled “I Would Learn the Healer’s Art.” The four-by-six foot oil on canvas commemorated the 40th anniversary of the College. The painting’s inspiration came from a line from the hymn, “Lord, I Would Follow Thee” that has become a motto for the College: “I would be my brother’s keeper; I would learn the healer’s art.”

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Southey wanted the painting to capture an intimate moment of healing between nurses and patients. He experimented with several different ideas in his sketches and finally decided to leave the patient resting peacefully, as the nurse prepares to care for her charge. Her arms are delicately out-stretched, ready to practice the Healer’s Art.

“I really love this painting not only because of its beauty, but also because of the symbolism it contains,” dean and professor Dr. Patricia Ravert shares.

Trevor Southey Healers Art

“I Would Learn the Healer’s Art” contains three specific symbols that form an inverted triangle within the painting. The red square on the right side of the painting represents blood and the human experience. Opposite the square is a golden sphere that symbolizes the spirit and things of eternity. At the bottom of the painting is an eternal flame, a tribute to the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale.

“I think ‘I Would Learn the Healer’s Art’ does a great job of showing what it means to be compassionate,” observes nursing student McKenna Warren. “That’s something that we try to learn, not only as nursing students, but also as disciples of Jesus Christ.”

For more information, watch this video: I Would Learn The Healer’s Art

Exciting New NLC Tech Transforms Student Learning Experience

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Assistant Lab Supervisor Kristen Whipple watches as students learn how to operate the new Pyxis MedStation

One of BYU’s top learning facilities got some exciting new upgrades this summer. Among the more exciting improvements, the Mary Jane Rawlinson Geertsen Nursing Learning Center (NLC) now boasts eighteen new hospital beds, two new state-of-the-art classroom manikins, and two new Pyxis MedStation 4000 systems.

“In the NLC, our goal is to simulate real-life nursing scenarios for our students, so they are better prepared when they enter a hospital for first time,” said NLC supervisor Colleen Tingey. “The Pyxis MedStations are what students are most likely to see in Utah area hospitals.”

“Pyxis is actually a real, clinical machine that we use as a teaching tool,” Assistant Lab Supervisor Kristen Whipple added. “But the same Pyxis machine we use here could be used in any hospital.”

Acquired through a donation by the Fritz B. Burns Foundation, the Pyxis MedStation 4000 is a computerized medical dispenser that is quickly becoming a standard piece of equipment for nurses across the country. The Pyxis MedStation is programmed with a patient database to help nurses keep track of all of their patient’s specific medical needs.

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“The whole idea behind the machines is to improve patient safety,” Tingey explained. “Because the patient’s record is already programmed into the machine, it can then dispense the right medication for that patient and help the nurse avoid medical errors.”

Prior to this summer, the NLC had just one older version of Pyxis to use for all nursing simulations, which often ran simultaneously. Nervous nursing students would often waste valuable time waiting to get meds for their simulation because of backlog at the older machine.

“We’re really excited to have two Pyxis machines, instead of just one,” Whipple said. “Now it’s easier for students to access them during their simulations.”

Thanks to the Fritz B. Burns Foundation, NLC also welcomed two new additions to the College of Nursing manikin family. The new arrivals (one adult and one child) are auscultation manikins that help students learn to identify heart, lung, and bowel noises.

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Nursing student Aimee Schouten with the new pediatric auscultation manikin.

Students can use a stethoscope to listen to the manikin’s heart rate and breathing. Computer programs allow the professor to control what sounds the student hears, as well as the area on the manikin that the sound comes from. The professor can also program the manikin to emit different types of sounds or project the sound through a speaker, so the whole class can hear.

“When students practice on each other, they get to hear normal sounds,” Tingey explained. They get to hear what normal, healthy patients sound like. But they don’t get the opportunity to hear abnormal heart sounds. These manikins provide an opportunity for students to hear what an abnormal heart sounds like.”

Nursing faculty are especially excited about the new pediatric auscultation manikin. Whipple said that nursing faculty had specifically asked for this device to better teach pediatrics to nursing students. “Small children don’t just behave like small adults,” Whipple pointed out. “Their bodies are different than adult bodies; so we need to train in what’s specific to them. This pediatric simulator acts like a pediatric body would and helps us identify those sounds that are unique to children.”

The new adult auscultation manikin has several unique features that are useful to professors and nursing students. Professors can use the adult manikin’s computer program to display EKGs, phonograms, and ultra-sounds. This allows students to see the physiology behind any abnormal sounds they may hear.

“Basically, this manikin allows our students to not only identify abnormalities like heart tremors,” Tingey said. “But it also allows students to learn how the sound correlates to what’s happening in the heart.”