The Honor of Being a Nurse

This is one of the speeches from the recent convocation ceremony for the BYU College of Nursing, given by Aubrey Sandberg.

My friends, congratulations! We made it to graduation! We survived clinicals, pre & post assessments, tests, simulations, pass-offs, 5 am drives to Salt Lake, crazy amounts of traffic, care plans and NCLEX questions. We’ve pushed through blood, sweat, tears and all the other bodily fluids found at clinical. We’ve seen birth and death and everything in between and we made it! And for some of us that is a literal miracle. Thanks to our cohort, amazing professors, family and friends—we are here today. But most of all it is thanks to our Savior and His love and grace.

Many of you who know me know that I am obsessed with grace. My two mottos in life are “B is for Balance”—which is a speech for another day—and “Grace is Real.” Like many of you, I have been battling some intense health challenges all throughout the Nursing Program, and I know that it is only through His grace that I am literally standing here today. I really do love our nursing theme, “I would learn the Healer’s art” and the song Lord, I Would Follow Thee. I especially love the first verse where it talks about taking the time to help others and “finding strength beyond our own” as we strive to do so. I am a personal witness that this literal strength and help – or grace – is real and I am so grateful for my Savior because of it.

President Uchtdorf said, “When I think of the Savior, I often picture Him with hands outstretched, reaching out to comfort, heal, bless, and love.” And I, like many of you, have been a recipient of that comfort, healing and love. My favorite chapter in the Book of Mormon is 3 Nephi 17, when Christ is visiting the Americas and heals the sick and blesses the children.

Christ is about to leave for the night when he sees how sad the people look and says, “Have ye any that are sick among you? Bring them hither. Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy… [The Savior] did heal them every one.”

Sister Esplin quoted this passage in her April 2016 talk. She explains  how wonderful it will be when Christ comes again and how she imagines it will be very similar to this passage of scripture.  However, she said until He comes again “He asks us to be His hands.” President Uchtdorf likewise said, “As we emulate the Savior’s perfect example of love and service our hands become His hands”

As nurses, we have the unique opportunity to be instruments in the Hands of the Master Healer.  In the New Testament, most of the Savior’s time and miracles were spent healing others. We have that same opportunity today. While it is a daunting and emotional task at times, it is so rewarding. In Sister Esplin’s talk she said, “Don’t think of your task as a burden, think of it as an opportunity to learn what love really is.”

I have noticed there is a 100% correlation in my happiness/fulfillment as a nurse and how close I am to the Savior. On days where I am distant from Him for whatever reason, I find myself burned out. And nursing is hard! Besides the 13-hour shifts, holidays, weekends and nights-it is emotionally draining. It is hard to stand there when a patient is diagnosed with terminal cancer, it is painful to listen to children talk about abuse, we naturally ache when a woman is sobbing about her miscarriage and her fears about never being able to have children. And the only way I have been able to get through those emotional times is through the Savior. I love the quote from Preach My Gospel that says, “All that is unfair about life will be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”

As nurses we see a lot of the unfair. However, we also see a lot of the joy: a mother’s face when you place her newborn in her arms, the look of relief on family member’s face when a surgery goes well, the day a NICU baby finally gets to go home, and the list goes on and on.

One specific example from my life happened when a patient got to ring the bell after cancer treatment. I did my capstone rotation on the Cancer/Transplant Unit at Primary Children’s and it definitely had its shares of ups and downs. However, one of the most rewarding experiences is after a child finishes their cancer treatment they get to ring a bell before they go home. I was there one day when a patient got to leave after a bone marrow transplant. This particular patient had relapsed and her prognosis did not look good. However, after months of being in the hospital, she finally was healthy enough to go home. So, when her mom made an announcement that she was going to ring the bell everyone came! Her extended family, the clinic employees, the pharmacist, the team of doctors, every nurse and tech and a lot of families on the unit. The hall was packed! She thanked everybody for coming and for our help, we sang her a song and she got to ring the bell three times loudly. Sobbing she immediately ran to her primary nurse and doctor they hugged her for a long time. I hardly knew the patient but I was sobbing too! It was one of the most rewarding and spiritual experiences of my life. I am grateful for both the hard and rewarding moments in our career because they provide us the opportunity to stay close to our Savior and maintain an eternal perspective in life.

One of my favorite quotes about nursing is by Thom Dick. He said, “You are going to be there when a lot of people are born. You are going to be there when a lot of people die. Such moments are regarded as sacred and private, made special by a divine presence. What an honor it is to be a nurse.”

I am so grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of BYU’s Nursing Program. I truly do believe it is an honor to be a nurse. I know if Christ was here, He would spend time healing and serving the sick. But as Sister Esplin says, “For now, He asks us to be His hands.”

Thank you.

Aubrey Sandberg

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.

The Day the ICU Stood Still

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. 

“The Day the ICU Stood Still”

Kent D. Blad


Mr. P was a 70-year-old Veteran of World War II.  He came to our hospital in need of treatment for recently diagnosed cancer of the esophagus.  After discussion with the family and physicians, the decision was made to take the patient to surgery to complete an esophagogastrectomy. Upon completion of his surgery, Mr. P returned to the Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU) for his post-operative care.  Mr. P’s wife and children spent many hours at his bedside, holding hands, praying, and offering words of encouragement to their recovering husband and father. Joy and smiles were seen when they witnessed his seemingly uneventful wakening from anesthesia and recovery in those first few days following surgery.  Mr. P was a delightful and pleasant individual who reciprocated his love for his family and shared his appreciation for their support on his behalf.

Mr. P’s condition held steady for little less than a week in the SICU, when the discovery was made that Mr. P was not tolerating his tube feedings well.  He complained of nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, and just not feeling well.  The decision was made to discontinue his tube feedings and begin total parenteral nutrition through his intravenous (IV) catheter.  After a week’s trial of this and other treatments, Mr. P’s condition worsened.  The family shared a great deal of concern with the physician and staff, as they worried about his unusual behavior of not being so cheerful and happy.

During those couple of weeks caring for Mr. P and his family, I, as his primary nurse, became very emotionally attached to them.  I found myself spending more and more time in the room at the patient’s bedside, trying to do everything possible. I found my efforts were not achieving the outcomes of getting Mr. P over his illness and on to recovery.  The family and I began questioning the seriousness of Mr. P’s lack of improvement.  The concerns were relayed to the surgical team, followed by a lengthy discussion with the family on the best treatment to pursue next.  A decision was made to take Mr. P back to surgery to explore the possible causes of his pain and lack of improvement.

In surgery, the surgeons discovered that Mr. P had a new problem, coupled with his battle with cancer.  The tissue around the operative sight had eroded, causing the tissue to tear, with his tube feedings leaking into the surrounding area..  With such fragile tissue, the possibility of being able to secure that tissue closed was questionable.  In addition, his primary esophageal cancer had metastasized.  Mr. P’s surgery was completed, unsuccessfully, and he was returned to his SICU room.

The surgical team presented the findings to the family, with the outlook of an estimated one week survival for Mr. P.  The shock of the news saddened the family.  The rest of that day was spent grieving and trying to accept the facts that had been presented.  The family returned home that evening to consider their options with Mr. P’s care.

Upon the family’s return to the hospital the next day, they presented me with their proposal.  They wanted to take Mr. P home, so that his wish of dying at home in his environment could be accomplished.  My immediate reaction was one of, “We can’t do that, that’s never been done before.  He needs us to take care of him.”  I couldn’t see past his need for dressing changes, pain medication, oxygen, a hospital bed, etcetera.

Over the following hour or so, I thought intently about the family’s request.  I started questioning my response to them.  Why couldn’t they take him home?  Why couldn’t we teach the family the necessary tasks to care for him at home?  Just because it had never been done before, was this enough reason not even to try?  If this were my spouse or father, would I want his wish granted?  I became convinced this was not an impossible task.  We were going to get Mr. P. home!

The wheels started spinning.  I shared my desire with the family of wanting to honor their wish.  I told them of our slim odds of being able to accomplish this, but we were at least willing to give it our best shot.  The first hurdle was to get the surgical team to agree.  After a phone call to them and their visit to the room within a short time, permission was granted to start the process as soon as possible.  Orders were written to the effect, with the next couple hours spent arranging for necessary items to complete this mission.  In coordination with home health, a hospital bed, wound dressing supplies, morphine, oxygen, as well as many other things, were scheduled to be delivered to the home the next morning.  Since time was of the essence, transportation was arranged to take him home at the beginning of the next day.  The final few hours of that day were spent teaching his wife and children the tasks of dressing changes, medication, oxygen administration, etc.

The next morning arrived and I was excited for the day.  I arrived before the family, visited with Mr. P, and shared with him the excitement the day would bring for him and his family.  With limited energy, he continued to smile throughout our conversation.  His dream was to come true.  I hastily made a sign to put around his neck as his family arrived which read, “PLEASE TAKE ME HOME!”

The memory of that moment when the family entered the room that morning, prepared to take their loved one home, will forever be imprinted on my mind.  In spite of the tragic circumstances surrounding this situation, I will never forget the look on their faces of love, appreciation, and joy.  The emotions shared were not of sadness, but happiness.  This good and kind gentleman, was now free to go home and die with dignity and peace, with his loving family surrounding him.

Word came from the family that Mr. P died on the third day after returning home, with a smile on his face and his entire family surrounding his bed.  The lessons I learned were invaluable.  Things could be accomplished that hadn’t been done before.  I learned the power of dedication and emotional and spiritual strength at times of adversity.  I will never be the same, nor will I ever approach a patient in the same manner as I did before caring for Mr. P.

How the West Was Won—By Nurse Practitioners

Meet assistant teaching professor Rod Newman, one of the BYU College of Nursing’s newest faculty members. He’s a mild-mannered teacher, nurse practitioner, and…cowboy action shooter?

Open Fire

Newman zeroes in on a target with his handy Wild West era rifle in a competition.

This is just a sampling of his many interests and hobbies.

Newman has been a nurse practitioner since 1979, a period spanning 38 years. He initially started studying nursing at Ricks College to be a nurse anesthetist, but he quickly found that the field was not for him.

“I like patient interaction a lot more, so I decided to go in that direction,” he says. After getting his associate’s at Ricks, he came to BYU for his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing.

Since then, he has worked at various places in Utah Valley, including a 25-year stint at Revere Health. He worked mainly in cardiology and critical care, with some work in internal medicine.

From Newman’s perspective, being a nurse practitioner offers multiple benefits. It is an expanding job field that lets nurses have real patient interaction. Newman still has patients at Revere Health who refuse to see anyone but him due to the relationship of trust he has established with them.

BYU offers Newman the chance to teach the importance of this trust to students in what he describes as “a wonderful environment.”

“This is a choice place to be,” he says. “The College of Nursing is fantastic and supportive, and I can’t say that professionally I’ve been happier anywhere else.”

In addition, Newman will be using the College’s ultrasound machine to examine ways that nurses can measure pulmonary hypertension without having to resort to either an expensive procedure or partially accurate tests.

When he is not at the hospital or teaching, you can often find Newman at the shooting range. One of Newman’s biggest hobbies is cowboy action shooting, which involves dressing up as a cowboy and shooting authentic guns from the time-period.

Watch out Black Bart

Newman in a competition that requires both speed and accuracy

“The big thing is you dress up like a cowboy, so you go back to your childhood,” he says. Firearms include old Winchester rifles and single-action revolvers. What’s more, Newman has won several shooting competitions.

The one thing that has lasted longer than his career as an NP is his marriage, which is now in its 42nd year. He has seven children and twenty-three grandchildren.


Newman with one of his horses

New group of FNP students begins program

With spring term starting this week, the BYU College of Nursing welcomed 14 new graduate students into its family nurse practitioner program. Despite the group’s differences, each showed during an opening introduction session that they were more alike, with outdoor interests ranging from mountain biking, swimming, and snow skiing.

Among the master students were five nursing alumni: Jasmine Burson (BS ’13), Kalene Mears Ethington (BS ’15), Millie Carter Harper (BS ’03), Virginia Faber Jefferies (BS ’02), and Casey Kochevar Neeley (BS ’12).

A couple of other interesting facts. There are four men, one with a military background. One of the females teaches dance lessons and will have a show at the Dejong Concert Hall next weekend, and another just completed a half-ironman competition with her mother.

All have great nursing experiences in the operating room, emergency department, med/surge, or shock trauma units and are looking forward to learning advanced nursing skills during the next two years.

Looking Back: Two Nursing Students Reflect As They Graduate

Spencer Marsh


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.


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


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.

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.