Tag Archives: cancer

Melissa Heinonen: Applying the Healer’s Art

melissa fam

By Corbin Smith

“I would learn the Healer’s art.”

One of the main goals of the BYU College of Nursing is to teach its students the Healer’s art. That includes caring for each of God’s children not only physically, but also mentally and spiritually. The college hopes that each graduate will dedicate their life to that service as they move on to healthcare sites all over the world. Now, more than 10 years later, class of 2007 graduate Melissa Heinonen looks back and is confident that she has been able to do exactly that, serving like the Healer did.

Physically

Since her graduation, Heinonen has healed her patients of all ages across the globe. Upon graduating from BYU, she worked in Primary Children’s Hospital and Shriners Hospital for Children in Salt Lake City. There she realized that she was passionate about working with young children and their families.

From there she moved to Austin, Texas where she worked at the Children’s Blood and Cancer Center of Central Texas for two years. “I loved working in Texas,” she says, “It was so inspiring to take part in helping a young child receive strength again.” It was here that she saw both the devastating effects of disease and healing power a nurse can bring.

melissa

Heinonen with a mother and daughter during her medical mission trip to Nigeria in 2012.

These experiences inspired Heinonen to go abroad and use her medical talents overseas. Her first experience was in 2010 following the earthquake in Haiti. A few years later, she traveled to Nigeria where she provided primary care services to a rural community. Once again, her eyes were opened to the positive influence nurses can have on a community.

In 2014, after receiving a Master of Nursing degree from the University of Washington, she and her young family moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where they currently reside, where she works part-time as a family practitioner in a private practice called Grow Pediatrics. Even though now she spends less time at the hospital she cherishes the time she can spend with her two boys. “I love the flexibility my job brings. I can spend a few days a week doing what I love without having to give up time with those whom I love,” she says.

Mentally

Heinonen also knows that a nurse’s job description goes beyond just physical healing but also mental healing. While working in Texas in the cancer clinic Heinonen saw the suffering felt by the children and their parents. While nursing the patient as best she could, she also provided support for devastated mothers and fathers who were distraught from the situation of their child. In fact, she still maintains relationships with many of those families today.

She also did this on the medical missions that she completed. In Haiti, she saw how the earthquake shook people’s lives. Thousands were injured physically, but thousands more were hurt mentally and emotionally. Her presence as a nurse comforted people as they dealt with the tragedy that changed their lives completely.

Spiritually

Heinonen also attributes her career to her strong testimony in the gospel. “Nursing has strengthened my testimony that each person is a unique and a loved child of God,” she explains, “I know that our Savior loves each of us individually and my work certainly teaches me more about that every day.”

That testimony that she has been able to form has helped her professionally with her patients and, possibly more importantly, with her four year-old and two year-old sons. As she teaches them about God, she often draws upon her experiences as a nurse. She says, “I try to teach my children that each person deserves to be treated with dignity and love as the Savior would. I help them understand the pure love He feels for us and His special ability to heal us.”

Her career in nursing has also helped her be a missionary. Her experience has helped her develop skills in communication and teaching as well as increasing her capacity to serve and be compassionate. She explains, “Now it is easier for me to connect with patients and get to know them and their unique circumstances. That gives me the courage to share the gospel and be an example of the Healer.”

Now, looking back at the life she has lived, Heinonen sees how each experience has been for her benefit. Even with all of her travels and homes across the nation, she knows that wherever she is, she can take the Healer’s art with her. “I love that I was able to learn nursing as the Healer’s art at BYU. It helps me see the Lord’s hand in my life and motivates me to strive to be the best nurse and mother I can be each day.”

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Three Nursing Student Experiences with Ohio Internship

By Mindy Longhurst

all threeImage of Christin Hickman, James Reinhardt and Cortney Welch at The Ohio State University. Image courtesy of Hickman.

Three College of Nursing students were able to research with some of the best mentors in the field of cancer research this summer with The Ohio State University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center (OSUCCC). The experiences that they had this summer were once in a lifetime (to learn more about how they received the internship opportunity read our previous article https://byunursing.wordpress.com/2018/03/30/a-really-good-big-deal/). Christin Hickman, Cortney Welch and James Reinhardt were able to work with a team of fellow researchers on a certain topic about cancer or cancer-related research. The team that they worked with involved a statistician, a PhD supervisor and a few other research students. In Ohio, a study was conducted that focused on a wide range of health topics, from this information each of the students focused on one aspect of the questionnaire for possible correlations. Following the summer’s research, they worked on publishing an article about their research and presented to a room full of PhD professors on their research findings.

templeImage of Christin Hickman and others at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Columbus, Ohio temple. Image courtesy of Welch.

Christin’s experience

Christin Hickman, a fourth semester nursing student, wanted to participate in this internship experience to see if she wanted to do research full-time in the future. During this time, Hickman focused on colorectal cancer, which is a very preventable form of cancer through regular colonoscopy screenings. Hickman was able to see if there was a difference in knowledge and awareness of colorectal screening rates for those who live in urban areas versus rural areas. Through studying and research, she discovered that in Ohio there is little difference in the knowledge and amount of screenings in rural versus urban participants. The experiences that she had in Ohio helped her to prepare for the future and understand more about how research works. Hickman explains, “This experience helped me to secure my destiny. It feels like research is really what I want to do with my life.” In the future Hickman wants to study more about precision medicine and genetic research.

cortney welch with posterImage of Cortney Welch with her poster that was presented to PhD professors of her research findings. Image courtesy of Welch.

Cortney’s experience

Third semester nursing student, Cortney Welch, enjoyed her time in Ohio. She was able to research if there was a correlation in social cohesion in communities and colorectal cancer screenings. By the end of the summer, she was able to conclude that there is not a correlation in social cohesion in communities and colorectal cancer screenings. Along with the research, Welch was also able to work in a blood sample lab for patients who are using clinical trials for cancer treatment. She was able to help centrifuge, aliquoted blood and labeled the blood samples. Welch loved the experience that she received in both research labs. Welch says, “The internship was a growing experience. When I came home from the internship, I felt accomplished that I had experienced my first taste of a full-time job. I had learned how to do research, how to write a paper. I felt like it was a great use of my summer. It was hard and it was frustrating at times and tedious but I think it was well worth my time. I learned a lot.”

all three with HimesImage of Hickman, Reinhardt and Welch with assistant professor Dr. Deborah Himes. Image courtesy of Hickman.

James’ experience

James Reinhardt, a fourth semester nursing student, was able to focus his research on preventing cancer through a research study on men’s overall health. He studied at-risk participants on how they rated their health. Reinhardt tried to understand why some men would rate their health as poor. Since many of the participants did not take the survey throughout the intervention process, it was very difficult for Reinhardt to come to any conclusion about why these men rated their health as low. However, throughout the process in Ohio, Reinhardt learned many lessons. Reinhardt expounds, “I hopefully will be able to better see road blocks in future research projects. My overall experience was great! We did get to work along with medical students and students from different schools so that was a cool mix to be in. I got to learn how research is vital.”

Overall, the College of Nursing students had a great experience in Ohio. They were able to learn and grow to become better nurses. They are now taking the skills that they learned in Ohio and are implementing them into their current nursing studies.