Julie Minson is honored to receive this year’s Valor Award for future nurse practitioners. Photo courtesy of Minson.
By Quincey Taylor
Serving others that have given so much in honor of this country is a privilege that only select nurses get to enjoy. Some of these nurses are alumna Emily Lance Santillan (’19) and current nursing graduate student Julie Minson, both of whom received the Valor Award during their respective times in the nursing program, the first during her bachelor’s and the second during her time as a graduate student.
The Valor Award is a great opportunity for students that want to learn skills in a specialized environment. Given to students at differing times in their education, the Valor Award is modified to best help recipients at their current point of training. Undergraduate students have the opportunity to work at the George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, mimicking a paid internship, while graduate students can use the hours gained at the VA towards becoming a nurse practitioner.
Surrounded by experienced nurses and guided by their preceptors, Santillan and Minson readily cared for a population that is in need of their love and attention.
The Nursing VA Learning Opportunity Residency (VALOR) Program is for outstanding students who have completed their junior year of an accredited baccalaureate nursing program and may be interested in a nursing career in the Department of Veterans Affairs. Under the guidance of a VA registered nurse preceptor, VALOR students have opportunities for clinical practice and competencies in a nursing specialty area. The student will also complete an independent, problem-focused, clinical project.
Santillan was so grateful for the experience she had at the VA. She says, “It was a huge growing and learning experience. My confidence as a nurse just skyrocketed. From the beginning to the end, I feel like I was ready to graduate and be a nurse, like the next day if I could.”
She felt that this chance to learn was different than other opportunities that she’d had. She continues, “Sometimes during clinical, it gets you close, but not quite to that point where you are on your own. At VA, I felt like I could do most things independently for the whole day. I could do charting, meds, interventions, everything. That was invaluable for me to have that confidence.”
Santillan was inspired to apply for the Valor Award after doing clinical at the VA with assistant professor Dr. Julie Valentine during her third semester. She loved the experience and decided to apply that next summer. The application process for her was almost like any other job interview, and she was thrilled when she was selected.
That summer, she worked almost full time in order to achieve 400 working hours by the start of fall semester. If she wanted to return to work there now after graduation, it would be a relatively simple process.
Santillan is grateful for her time at BYU and says, “It stretched me a lot and challenged me a lot, but was very rewarding. I feel like if you’re comfortable, you’re not growing. You’ve got to get out of your comfort zone and grow… I know I’m a completely different person. I know I’ve improved so much since when I started at BYU.”
Since completion of her Bachelor’s degree, Santillan has had a baby, and hopes to return to nursing in the fall.
The VA funded learning opportunity for nurse practitioner student clinical training is reserved for graduate DNP and MSN students interested in a nursing career in the Department of Veterans Affairs. Their working hours gained at the VA can go towards their clinical hours to become a nurse practitioner.
“This award actually came as a great surprise to me,” she remarks. She had been thinking about where she wanted to work when she was done with school, and the VA came to mind. She applied to their internship program, where she will be doing her capstone. She was thrilled when she was selected to participate.
She says, “I had been talking to associate professor Dr. Beth Luthy about how excited I was about applying and how I was looking forward to how rigorous the training is, and the growth I will have there. They see lots of complex patients with complex problems and I know that I will learn so much.”
Unbeknownst to Minson, Luthy nominated her for the Valor Award and she was chosen! She says, “I was humbled and also very grateful to receive this award. I have always loved the elderly. I started out as a CNA in high school and worked at rest homes and doing home health care with the geriatric population to get through my undergraduate. I also love the grandmas of my ward and love sitting with them. I’ve always loved their deep well of knowledge and life experiences; they have a deep reservoir of love for their fellowmen because of what life has taught them. Taking care of an aging body with such a deep and wonderful heart can be a challenge, and it’s one I’m looking forward to.”
Coming back to school at 40 years old with three children was not easy for Minson, but she has enjoyed every minute. She says, “I’ve been blown away by how much each professor is individually interested in me and my learning. This is a topnotch program and if you’re thinking about becoming a nurse practitioner then BYU is the best choice!”
She wants to give a special thanks to Luthy and associate teaching professor Dr. Blaine Winters for their confidence in her and nominating her.