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Ribs, Nurses, and Cowboy Boots: BYU SNA Represents College at National Conference

By Jonathan Schroeder

First-semester nursing student Rachel Hawkins looked out at the sea of nursing students in front of her, and sighed with exhaustion. Within 24 hours, there had been a long red-eye flight across two time zones, a hotel check-in and then a full day of networking, keynote speakers, and complex nursing acronyms. The evening brought a much needed rest; but also a newly awakened perspective.

“I had never really realized before just how many different things you could do with nursing,” Hawkins explains. “There are so many different aspects you can focus on – business, travel; the possibilities are endless!”

Hawkins was one of several students who represented the BYU Student Nursing Association at the 2018 National Student Nursing Association (NSNA) Conference in Nashville, TN.

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BYU Nursing Students enjoy a break a between NSNA sessions at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel

“It really helped open my view of the level of impact that nurses can have,” fellow first-semester student Izzy Bernal adds. “I realized that my sphere of influence doesn’t have to be just as a bedside nurse, but I can really do a lot of different things.”

For associate teaching professor Sondra Heaston, this kind of reaction has almost become commonplace. Heaston has been the BYU SNA Chapter advisor for more than a decade and has enjoyed helping students prepare for the annual conference since 2007.

“The conference is a bit of a wake-up call for a lot of students,” Heaston explains. “Many students get into the nursing program and then they get so focused on school that they don’t realize just how much there is outside of the classroom. The conference gives them a chance to see just how many opportunities they have for their future career, for leadership and for education — all in this one week-long event.”

More than 3,000 nursing students from across the country participated in this year’s conference. Conference events included TED Talk-style keynote speakers, information sessions about different nursing emphases, SNA officer trainings, and an exhibition hall with recruiters from top hospitals and graduate programs across the country.

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BYU Nursing Student Ashley Dyer with two other nursing students from different parts of the country

“It’s almost like an LDS Women’s Conference for nurses,” sixth-semester student Aimee Schouten explains. “It’s a really neat chance to be with other nursing students and professionals from around the US and feel united, as a profession.”

“The goal of SNA [and the NSNA conference] is to help students have the best opportunity to become the best nurses possible,” adds Jessica Small. “It’s really cool to have that shared purpose with other people.”

BYU Nursing: Learning Through Leadership

The NSNA Conference not only helps develop great nurses, but it also helps develop great leaders. As part of the conference, students have the chance to participate in the NSNA House of Delegates. This allows students to put forth resolutions based on current issues and research. These resolutions can vary from establishing healthcare polices to increasing awareness for certain issues.

“This is how policy changes happen in the real world,” Heaston explains. “Nurses come together and raise their voices within their professional organization and discuss issues that they feel need to be addressed.”

This year, Schouten and Small provided one of the highlights of the NSNA Conference when they presented their resolution to raise awareness of sexual assault on college campuses.

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Schouten and Small with their Resolution to Increase Awareness of Sexual Assault Across Campuses to Reduce Victim Blaming and Stigmatization of Rape

Schouten and Small were inspired to present their resolution after discovering that the topic of sexual assault on college campuses had not been addressed in any NSNA resolution over the past five years.

“I was honestly shocked,” Small remembers. “Sexual assault on college campuses is a big problem. Yet all we found in our research were a few resolutions that made reference to sexual assault; there wasn’t anything that actually addressed the problem.”

Inspired by the work of BYU Nursing Assistant Professor Julie Valentine, Schouten and Small drafted a resolution that they hope will increase awareness for the issue of sexual assault in addition to creating an environment that will help nurses provide better care for potential victims.

“The goal of our resolution is to present the prevalence, side effects and barriers that sexual assault victims face in getting the help they need,” Small explains.

Small and Schouten’s resolution contains a number of eye-opening statistics from a variety of sources. They found that not only have one in five women experienced sexual assault while in college, but that less than half of those assaulted actually seek the healthcare they need afterwards.

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Schouten and Small on the floor of the NSNA House of Delegates

“The problem is there is such a stigmatization of rape and victim blaming,” Schouten says. “One of the biggest reasons that people don’t report sexual assault is that they feel that reporting it will change how people see them. It makes them feel worthless and debased.”

“As nurses, it’s our job to help these people get the physical and mental healthcare they need; not only in the workplace, but also in our daily lives,” Small adds. “There’s a lot that we can do to help these victims. Whether we’re acting as roommates, as friends, or as future healthcare professionals — we need to take a stand to combat the issue of sexual assault on college campuses.”

The NSNA House of Delegates unanimously accepted Schouten and Small’s resolution, which calls for their research to be published for NSNA students, as well as at the American Nursing Association (ANA). Not only was the resolution unanimously accepted, but many delegates shared testimonials about how sexual assault had impacted the life of a friend or loved one.

“It felt good to see how many people our resolution could impact just in that room,” Small shares. “We could really tell we were doing a good thing.”

And while Small and Schouten were representing BYU on the floor of the House of Delegates, their classmate, Ashley Dyer was campaigning for a spot on the NSNA Board. Dyer successfully campaigned for and was elected to be the Chair and Western Representative of the NSNA Nominating and Elections Committee (NEC) for 2018-2019.

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Ashley Dyer campaigning for the Chair and Western Representative of the NSNA NEC

“I am very humbled by the outpouring of support from so many nursing students in our nation who, a week ago, had never even heard of me,” Dyer says. “I want to do all I can to help them find the courage and means to easily participate in national leadership opportunities this year.”

Fortunately, Dyer won’t have to travel very far to fulfill her NSNA NEC duties next year. The 2019 NSNA Conference is scheduled for April 3-7, 2019, in Salt Lake City.

“The NSNA conference is a great opportunity for all nursing students; not just SNA board members,” Heaston says. “We hope that all nursing students take advantage of this amazing opportunity to expand their nursing horizons.”

 

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BYU Students Learn the Facts Behind the Opioid Epidemic

At the BYU College of Nursing’s Professionalism Conference on February 26, nursing students had a unique opportunity to get informed on one of the most important health issues in the nation: the opioid crisis.

The conference, titled “The Opioid Epidemic: Heed the Warnings, Watch for the Signs, Know How to Act,” featured Shana Metzger, an acute care nurse practitioner who focuses on addressing the American opioid crisis. Her lecture, hosted in the Wilkinson Student Center’s Varsity Theater, addressed many important points on the opioid epidemic.

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Shana Metzger

 

“Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others,” reads a brief from The National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Regular use—even as prescribed by a doctor—can lead to dependence and, when misused, opioid pain relievers can lead to overdose incidents and deaths.”

As the use of opioids in medical practice has increased over the past twenty years, so have the levels of addictions, overdoses, and deaths caused by opioids.

The numbers surrounding the opioid crisis in America are astounding. According to the New York Times, drug overdoses of all varieties killed around 64,000 Americans last year, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that approximately 66% those deaths involved an opioid. To put that in perspective, the National Safety Council puts the number of American traffic fatalities in 2016 at around 40,000.

According to the CDC, over 115 Americans die daily from opioid overdoses, and 40% of all drug overdose deaths in America involve prescription opioids. In fact, the increase in drug-related deaths has contributed to a decline in life expectancy in the United States over the past two years.

Much of the opioid crisis is driven by an increased abuse of prescription drugs, which then drives an increasingly higher number of users to switch to cheaper heroin. As the CDC explains, “Between 2010 and 2016, the rate of heroin-related overdose deaths increased by a factor of 5 – more than 15,469 people died in 2016.”

Utah is far from immune—in fact, according to the Utah Department of Health, Utah has the seventh highest drug overdose rate in the United States. The Deseret News has recently been covering how the typical opioid addict is frequently a “normal” man or woman with a family and an established livelihood.

Demographically, the crisis has many facets. The CDC reports that most prescription opioid overdoses happen with Caucasians or Native American aged 25-54. One report by the State Health Access Data Assistance Center points out that Americans in that age range are more likely to die from heroin or other opioid related overdoses. It also explains that while heroin use is increasing across all racial groups, Caucasians have a higher preponderance of heroin overdose deaths.

However, the New York Times also reports that the young are particularly affected, saying that “[despite] the perception of the epidemic as primarily afflicting the rural working class, drug overdoses account for a greater percentage of deaths among the young in large cities and their suburbs, with urban and suburban whites most at risk.”

Topics like these were covered by Metzger in her lecture, which students found informative. The conference topic is particularly relevant since the federal government declared the opioid epidemic to be a public health emergency back in October. Metzger’s own involvement in the issue came after treating a large number of patients with opioid addictions.

The BYU’s students left the conference, which also included a closing session featuring former BYU football player and current host of “Jazz Game Night” Alema Harrington, with more self-confidence and better prepared to handle any manifestations of the opioid crisis they encounter in their own careers.

(Graphic courtesy of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

 

More on the Opioid Epidemic:

Numbers and Statistics:

https://www.hhs.gov/opioids/about-the-epidemic/index.html#data

https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/overdose.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/26/us/opioid-crisis-public-health-emergency.html

http://www.shadac.org/sites/default/files/publications/US%20opioid%20brief%202017%20web.pdf

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/fueled-by-drug-crisis-us-life-expectancy-declines-for-a-second-straight-year/2017/12/20/2e3f8dea-e596-11e7-ab50-621fe0588340_story.html?utm_term=.5c46965ad9ac

Causes of the Epidemic:

https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/8/3/16079772/opioid-epidemic-drug-overdoses

https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis

Opioids in Utah:

http://www.opidemic.org/

http://www.bbc.com/news/av/magazine-40647528/america-s-opioid-crisis-the-grandparents-burden

https://www.deseretnews.com/article/900011275/report-fatal-opioid-overdoses-steady-in-utah-but-heroin-deaths-soaring.html

https://www.deseretnews.com/article/900001407/one-mormon-moms-slide-from-pain-pills-to-the-depths-of-heroin-addiction-and-back-again.html

On-the-ground look:

http://time.com/james-nachtwey-opioid-addiction-america/

New Ways Opioids are Spreading:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-43146286

https://www.deseretnews.com/article/900000059/from-mormon-kid-to-alleged-drug-kingpin-inside-the-rise-and-fall-of-aaron-shamo.html

Public Reaction:

https://www.npr.org/2017/10/26/560083795/president-trump-may-declare-opioid-epidemic-national-emergency

https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/chasing-heroin/

 

Outbreak of Success at BYU College of Nursing, CDC Called in to Investigate

Usually, a visit from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a reason for concern. However, this past week CDC representatives who visited BYU’s College of Nursing were not responding to an epidemic, but were instead meeting with associate professor Dr. Beth Luthy and assistant teaching professor Lacey Eden to discuss their work on vaccine awareness for future CDC educational videos.

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Luthy guides CDC representatives on a tour of the NLC

“We came out here to highlight them as vaccine advocates and show us what they’re doing to prepare future leaders to be vaccine advocates and what they’re doing for risk communication and vaccine hesitant parents,” says Jennifer Hamborsky, a Health Education Specialist at the CDC and one of the principal authors of the CDC’s famous “Pink Book,” a textbook on vaccine-preventable diseases.

The CDC—a federal organization described as the nation’s health protection agency—is well known for responding to disease outbreaks such as Zika and Ebola. However, the CDC’s work includes many other facets of public health, including promoting vaccination use among Americans.

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Students and faculty interact with CDC representatives

That coincides with the efforts of Luthy and Eden, who are heavily involved in educating the public on the importance of vaccinations. Luthy was appointed by President Obama to serve on the Advisory Commission for Childhood Vaccines and continues to serve as its interim head.  Eden played a critical role in the passing of Utah House Bill 308, which requires parents who choose to exempt their children from vaccinations to complete an educational module, developed by Eden and her student team, which teaches about the risks associated with not being vaccinated.

The CDC representatives arrived early Wednesday to begin the process of conducting filmed interviews with Luthy, Eden, and a handful of students and other faculty. After touring the Mary Jane Rawlinson Geertsen Nursing Learning Center (NLC), however, the representatives decided to do a separate filming about the quality of the NLC for use in a different set of videos while still interviewing Luthy and Eden.

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Dr. Beth Luthy (middle) and Lacey Eden (far right) will be featured in a series of CDC videos on immunization awareness.

“The expected outcomes are that there will be several video resources for health care providers and there will be also video resources that will go into an undergraduate nursing curriculum IRUN (immunization resources for undergraduate nursing),” Hamborsky said.

Most of the day was spent filming the NLC and interviewing Luthy and Eden, including a special focus on both Eden’s module and a children’s book written by Luthy about the importance of vaccinations. The experience was a pleasant one for all parties involved, and all are hopeful that the visit will produce meaningful results in the world of vaccination promotion.

“Beth and Lacey are clearly superstars and the facility is wonderful and state of the art,” Hamborsky said, “It’s just really been great to have the opportunity to be here to be able to highlight the great work that they’re doing so that now we’ll be able to share their work, not that it hasn’t already been, but we’ll be able to share it nationally.”

“It was surreal to be interviewed by the leaders of the immunization world,” Eden says. “I felt a feeling of validation that all of our hard work is making a difference.”

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The CDC representatives were highly impressed with the state-of-the-art NLC

 

8 Reasons to Attend the 2018 Night of Nursing

By Calvin Petersen

  1. Barbara Perry. Listen to Sister Perry—LDS Hospital nurse, past BYU College of Nursing faculty, recipient of BYU Honored Alumni Award and wife of the late Elder L. Tom Perry—as this year’s Night of Nursing keynote speaker.
  2. Prizes. Enter a Night of Nursing raffle and win BYU College of Nursing swag—t-shirts, lanyards, scarfs and more. Attend the Provo party and enter to win Amazon and Costa Vida gift cards and an Amazon Echo.
  3. BYU mint brownies. Devour free mouth-watering BYU mint brownies at almost every Night of Nursing location.
  4. Gifts. Receive a special gift from the College of Nursing simply for attending a Night of Nursing party.
  5. Networking. Expand your professional network by meeting nursing professionals and other BYU alumni at each location.
  6. Fun. Enjoy reuniting and reminiscing with friends and participate in games to make new ones.
  7. Sigma Theta Tau International. Come early to the Provo Night of Nursing and celebrate the 30 years of Iota Iota, BYU’s chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International.
  8. BYU unity. Join simultaneously with BYU students, alumni and friends in over 40 locations across the United States on March 1 for Night of Nursing.Reasons to Attend

Biceps After Babies: How to Have Four Kids and a 300 lb Dead Lift

By Jonathan Schroeder

Superman can fly. Spiderman has spidey sense. Amber Brueseke (BS ’07) has four kids and can deadlift more than twice her body weight.

Brueseke will tell you that she doesn’t consider herself to be a superhero or “Wonder Woman;” but for more than 32,000 people who follow her on Instagram, she might as well be.

She is the brains (and brawn) behind “Biceps after Babies,” a personal training regimen designed to help moms (and dads) reach their fitness goals while balancing the adventures of family life. On any given week, Brueseke helps around 70 people with anything from nutrition coaching to workout tips, all while embracing her already busy role as a wife and mother. But Brueseke says that, for her, fitness and motherhood have never really dwelt in separate realms.

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“When I grew up, my mom was an old-school aerobics instructor,” Brueseke recalls. “I remember going to the gym very young while she would teach classes. You had to be fourteen to go the weight-room at the YMCA where she taught. So when we turned fourteen, my mom took us into the weight-room. She showed us the equipment and the weights and that’s when we started learning how to lift.”

Mom by Day, Nurse by Night

Despite her early introduction to fitness training, Brueseke came to BYU as a biochemistry major. After a semester of heavy chemistry classes, Brueseke decided to change her major to pre-med. She took a previews to medicine class, where she met her husband, Taylor. After several months, Brueseke decided to apply to the College of Nursing.

“I loved the nursing program,” she explains. “It gave me the chance to help people, to work with medicine — and it gave me the flexibility I wanted to be a mom.”

After graduating from the nursing program in 2007, Brueseke began working on a neuro-surgical intermediate care unit while her husband went to med school at Penn State. Brueseke would take care of the kids during the day while her husband studied and he would take over while she worked the evening shift.

21587390_336660093460219_726102578827951595_oHowever, that all changed when the Brueseke family moved to California so her husband could start working on his residency.

“When you go to residency, you don’t get home at 5pm every night” Brueseke adds. “Often my husband would work 80 hour weeks. We couldn’t switch off like we had done before. That was when I decided I needed to do something else. So I switched my focus back to fitness.”

Brueseke had already been attending fitness classes, thanks to a friend who invited her to take classes with her at a local gym. Upon moving to California, Brueseke began teaching Group X and Zumba classes. Within a few years, she also added Body Pump, Body Combat, and CX Works classes to her teaching repertoire.

How a Quest for Killer Abs Lead to a Killer Following

After five years of teaching fitness classes, Brueseke came to a realization; she wanted abs.

“I’d had four kids, I’d been a fitness instructor for five years, but during all this time, I’d never gotten to the point where I’d had visible abs!”

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So Brueseke set out on her goal to becoming a six-pack-ab Momma. To help encourage her, she created an Instagram page “biceps.after.babies” to share her progress with her friends.  Brueseke’s posts really resonated with young moms in the fitness community. In less than two years, her page gained more than 32,000 followers.

“People started approaching me saying ‘Hey I’ve seen what you’re doing; can you coach me?’,” Brueseke remembers. “So I started coaching a couple of friends, who then told their friends, and it kind of snowballed from there as people got results.”

But if you’re hoping to discover some magical secret behind Brueseke’s impressive social media success, you might be disappointed.

“I honestly didn’t do anything crazy,” Brueseke shares. “I was myself and I posted the things that I was thinking, feeling, and doing. I think the biggest thing that I hear people say to me is that I’m relatable; like I’m them. I understand what it’s like to be a mom, I understand what’s required of being a mom and trying to balance that with your fitness goals and your family.”20861827_325580674568161_7211867878468796139_oBrueseke says that also tries to go out of her way to post things on her page that go beyond just the weight room.

“I try to share not just fitness stuff but also things about my life and the struggles I have. I really strive to have really quality content; instead of me just posting pictures of my abs, I would rather post something that’s going to help you learn and inspire you to reach your fitness goals.”

Mom, the Body-Builder

Thanks to her Instagram account, Brueseke works with around 70 clients in any given month. However, she says her top priority is still being a mom. She gets up early every day to work out before her kids wake up for school. While the kids are at school, Brueseke answers emails, works with clients, and works on her own fitness goals. After school she then makes time to run her kids to anything from gymnastics meets to soccer practice.

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A daily schedule like that is enough to make any mom cringe. But Brueseke says that one of the keys to her success lies in her own backyard. The Bruesekes have a shed behind their house that doubles as a mini-gym; complete with a power rack, bench press, and everything Brueseke needs to train.

“One of the things that we love about having the gym at our house is that our kids get to see us lifting,” Brueseke explains. “They come out to the shed with us and they do pull-ups and chin-ups with us; they know the names of all the lifts. We even started working squats, technique with them; we let them do what mom and dad are doing. It also means that I can come inside and check up on them anytime they’re home when I have to work.”

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Weight-training has also become a special bond between Brueseke and her husband. Last November, the two of them entered their first power-lifting competition, as a couple. Every Saturday morning, Brueseke and her husband train together, each helping the other push their fitness to the next level.

How Nursing Helps in the Weight Room

When Brueseke first entered the BYU Nursing program, she never imagined that she would eventually be working as a personal trainer. Luckily for her, Brueseke’s nursing degree (plus her experience working in the hospital), have given her a lot of useful skills that she can now use to help her clients. Not only does Brueseke have a far deeper understanding of anatomy and physiology than the average fitness trainer, but she also knows how to better interact with her clients.

“A big part of being a nurse is that you’re there at the bedside the whole day,” Brueseke explains. “You’re not popping in and out like the doctors are; you’re there with the patient and with their family and you develop a rapport and a relationship. I think those relationship building skills have helped me immensely.”

But Brueseke says that perhaps the most valuable lesson she learned from nursing was how to prioritize her time.

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“They’re always on you in nursing school about learning how to prioritize your patients and making sure you’re attending to the most important things first. The techniques I learned in nursing school have helped me prioritize where my time is spent so I can get everything done that I need to.”

So whether she’s running the kids to school, responding to client emails, filming an Instragram video, or in the weight room maxing out on bench press; you can be sure that Amber Brueseke is doing her best to stay on top of things. And although she may deny it, for her family and clients, she’s the best kind of superhero there is; the kind that inspires others to do better.

Do you have an interesting job or career? Let your peers across the country know how you use your nursing degree. Email nursingpr@byu.edu. Your news may be included in a future blog post or an edition of the college magazine.

 

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.”

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.