Tag Archives: Corbin Smith

Melissa Heinonen: Applying the Healer’s Art

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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.

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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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Daphne Thomas Elected as ENA President in Utah

Daphne Thomas

Thomas is one of six BYU College of Nursing faculty members serving in Utah’s ENA council in 2019.

By Corbin Smith

This January, assistant teaching professor Daphne Thomas was elected president of the Utah chapter of the ENA. She is joined by BYU College of Nursing assistant teaching professors Stacie Hunsaker, Ryan Rasmussen, Scott Summers, Dr. Craig Nuttall and associate teaching professor Sondra Heaston in various responsibilities in the chapter. Thomas has already served as president-elect for a year and will serve as chapter president until the end of 2019.

ENA stands for emergency nurses association. It is an international organization with the goal to assure that top quality practices take place in emergency rooms through education. This is done by providing classes and certifications to help continue a nurse’s education and maintain competency. They offer many classes, including trauma and pediatric courses, both taught by Thomas.

When asked why she has decided to take on such an intense commitment Thomas says, “I’ve been an emergency room nurse for about 20 years and I just love making it better.” She continues, “I understand the importance of being an active advocate for these nurses… not only so that they have a better job satisfaction but also that we have better patient outcomes.”

Thomas is also quick to recognize that she needs her whole team to have a successful tenure as ENA president. “There are a lot of different roles and people making sure everything is running smoothly and is organized. There is a lot going on and it takes a whole team to be effective.”

As president of the ENA, Thomas hopes to make a positive, lasting impact on emergency nursing. She shares, “Nurses can make a difference in people’s lives. That is what nursing is really all about. Its very service oriented and we want it to stay that way.”

BYU Nursing Boasts Seven Champions in Washington DC

ShotatLife4BYU’s Shot@Life champions meet with congressman Ben McAdams in Washington DC.

By Corbin Smith

We love to imagine what we would do if we were gifted a million dollars. If you had a million dollars, what would you do? Would you share it or keep it for yourself? How would you use that gift to make a difference?

Even though associate professor Dr. Beth Luthy and assistant teaching professor Lacey Eden don’t have a million dollars, they do have another powerful tool that has helped them make a difference in the world: their voices. Their own passions have led to them to unite their voices with a global health program called Shot@Life.

Shot@Life is part of the United Nations Foundation. Its purpose is to ensure that all kids, wherever they may be in the world, gets access to the vaccinations they need to have a healthy childhood. They work with organizations like UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the Vaccine Alliance to help them in their goal for global health.

Luthy, Eden and five graduate students—Dan Smith, Virginia Jeffries, Emily Richards, Katie Bates and Deborah Gibbons—have all been named Shot@Life champions. Shot@Life champions are, according to their website, “individuals who are dedicating their voice, time, and support to stand up for children in developing countries.” They were selected as champions by the United Nations Foundation and were invited to attend the champions summit in Washington DC last February.

Shot@Life receives its funding in two major ways: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the US government. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donates millions of dollars each year to the program in support of global health. The Shot@Life program’s goal each year is to convince congress to match the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s donation by renewing global health funding. This is where the Shot@Life champions come in.

The three days spent in Washington DC at the champions summit are to teach and persuade congressman from your state to vote in favor of continuing global health funding. For Eden, Luthy and their students, it was an exciting time to meet with politicians and prepare to teach them the benefits of global health.

For the BYU group, the first day was spent meeting in groups made up of champions from each state, finalizing research and learning how to give an effective and powerful sales pitch to a congressman. Day two is all about the presentations. Messages are refined and glossy handouts are passed out as the champions from each state present to their state’s congressman. After a successful day presenting, the final day in DC was for debriefing.

All those who attended the summit felt like they had done something positive for the world. “I really feel like I am making a difference,” says Luthy, “It feels so good to be a part of something that helps so many people worldwide.”

Due to the hard work of the champions, Shot@Life has been crucial in helping get vaccinations to the places people need them the most, slowly ridding the world of many terrible diseases. According to the WHO, in 2018 only 33 cases of Polio were found, compared to 350,000 in 1988.

Even with all their success, the end goal for the Shot@Life program is to eradicate all fatal and avoidable diseases from the world. “We live in a world where most of these diseases are completely preventable,” says Luthy, “and we have to do everything we can to stop the suffering.” Thanks to the dedication and passion of Luthy, Eden and Shot@Life champions all over the nation, that goal is in reach.

It is easy to get involved with the Shot@Life program! Visit shotatlife.org to find out how you can get involved and help every child around the world have their own shot at life.

 

BYU “Levels Up” in Exercise is Medicine Program

Neil Peterson

Dr. Neil Peterson is excited to continue working toward a healthier BYU community.

By Corbin Smith

Click the link to see what Dr. Peterson and his team did last year to achieve the bronze level campus recognition!

https://byunursing.wordpress.com/2017/09/13/byu-earns-bronze-level-campus-recognition-from-american-college-of-sports-medicine/

For some, it may be easy to believe that BYU’s only focus is the spiritual well-being of our community. Assistant professor Dr. Neil Peterson is dedicated to showing that BYU is also very committed to the physical well-being of the campus.

In 2017, BYU was awarded a bronze level campus recognition from the American College of Sports Medicine after the success of the Pokéthon 3K run/walk event Dr. Peterson spearheaded in October 2016. This year, thanks to the hard work of Dr. Peterson and many others, BYU was recognized again, receiving a silver level campus recognition.

The Exercise is Medicine On-Campus program is unique in that they require a university to do different things to receive the various levels of recognition. For example, a bronze recognition requires a campus to have an event to raise awareness for physical health, like BYU did with the Pokéthon run/walk. To reach a silver level recognition, the university must implement a program to educate its community on the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle. BYU was one of the 56 universities in the nation to receive the silver recognition in 2019.

To educate the community on physical health, BYU started with its students. In the undergraduate program, Associate teaching professor Gaye Ray instructs her students about the importance of physical activity as well as how to measure it in their patients during her physical assessment class. Dr. Peterson also teaches this on the graduate level. All is in an effort to prepare students to help future patients improve exercise and health habits.

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Dr. Peterson and his team had another successful event in October 2018: The Super Hero Fun Walk. Photo courtesy of Peterson.

The BYU Wellness Program has also done a lot to help BYU receive a silver level recognition this year. “BYU wellness has monthly wellness talks and activities. They provide resources to the community for people to participate and teach everyone how to be active in their lives,” says Dr. Peterson. Visit wellness.byu.edu to check out some of their resources and find info for later events!

In the future, Dr. Peterson has plans to work with the Student Heath Center on campus to work toward the gold level recognition, the level received when a system to measure physical activity is put into place.

It is not hard turn those bad habits into healthy ones. “We just have to do these little things to make our lives a little bit better,” says Peterson.

Below are five of those simple tips that Dr. Peterson recommends for healthier living!

 

5 Pro Tips to a Healthier Lifestyle at Work

  1. Take Short, Mental Breaks Each Hour.

To be able to maximize your ability to focus, you need to give your brain some time to rest. You work hard and you have people to help, but taking 3-5 minutes to relax and give yourself a short break will make a huge difference in your productivity.

  1. Take the Stairs!

To live a healthier lifestyle, it is important that you get your heart rate up occasionally. Taking the stairs is the perfect way to get your heart pumping and your body moving. You’ll feel better and be getting a little bit of exercise in!

  1. Get a Workout App

Need a constant reminder to get active? Downloading an app that suggests short workouts is the answer. Some apps even help you monitor your diet and set health goals. Dr. Peterson uses “Streaks Workouts” to keep not just himself but also his students to stay active during class!

  1. Go Outside Every Few Hours

Being inside all day can take a toll on your eyes. “When you go outside your eyes can focus on something in the distance, like the mountains. That allows for your eye muscles relax and go straight,” says Peterson. Get headaches frequently? This could be your solution!

  1. Do Some Work Standing Up

Not only can working standing up help reduce back pain, but you also burn an average of 1000 more calories a week by standing instead of sitting! Even if you can’t get a standing desk, standing up every once in a while will still make a positive impact on your health.

 

Stroke Awareness Month: An Unlikely Hero

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Zak Gowans is happy that his dad, Ben, successfully survived a stroke. 

By Corbin Smith

There are very few things that can happen in a person’s life that can flip it completely upside down. Receiving a cancer diagnosis or the death of a loved one are just two examples. There is one, though, that many do not realize affects so many people each day.

Due to this fact, each May the world celebrates Stroke Awareness Month, reminding us the importance of being able to recognize and react to a stroke.

In 2016, strokes were the second leading cause of death in the world, amounting to almost 6 million deaths worldwide. Next month, some 65,000 Americans will experience a stroke; most unaware they are even at risk!

Since it is close to impossible to know when a stroke will strike, the National Stroke Association has created an easy-to-remember acronym called F.A.S.T to help identify the symptoms of a stroke. By knowing and quickly following F.A.S.T when you suspect someone is having a stroke, you could literally save someone’s life.

An Unlikely Hero

March 23, 2019 started as a normal day for Ben and Zak Gowans. Zak, the videographer for the College of Nursing’s media team, was spending some time doing homework in his room. His dad, Ben, having spent the day at his parents’ home, had just sat down on his bed to watch Avengers: Infinity War.

After a few minutes, wanting a break from homework, Zak came into the room and sat down on the bed to watch the movie with his dad. “The way we were laying, we couldn’t see each other. Then he sat up and looked at me. I saw his pupils were huge and he looked really confused. All I could ask was, ‘Are you okay?’” says Zak.

From Ben’s perspective he says, “I remember sitting there and thinking ‘I’ve seen this movie before but it doesn’t make sense what’s happening.’ I looked at my hands, and they were like someone else’s hands. They were moving oddly, not responding quite right, so I sat up a little and looked over at Zak.”

Zak jumped up, turned the movie off and ran over to the other side of the bed. “He couldn’t speak. I knew it was something with his brain, because he was acting very strange,” says Zak. “As I called 911,” Zak laughs, “My dad even started shaking his head no.” “It was because it was going to be expensive,” jokes Ben.

Within the next ten minutes, the paramedics arrived and Ben’s wife got back home from the grocery store to a great surprise. From the moment they arrived to when he made it to the hospital, he was bombarded with questions. “Every question they asked I knew the answer too, but the words wouldn’t come out of my mouth. I knew what to say but I couldn’t communicate it,” says Ben.

Stroke of Luck

The next few hours were filled with uncertainty and medical tests. He was given a CT scan to see what type of stroke he was having and where the blood clot was in his brain. He was offered a potentially dangerous clot-busting medicine to begin dissolving the clots.

After that, the emotional trial began. “I remember the first night. I was in a dark room and I couldn’t fall asleep. I remember laying there thinking that I wish I had just died. This was going to be a terrible life, and I didn’t want to do that. I just wished I had bled out,” says Ben.

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Ben was comforted by his family on his way to recovery.

He had a long line of people rooting for him, though, not letting him give up. His wife, Julie, stayed with him all night in the ICU and told him, “I’m not done with you, you can’t leave yet.” The next morning a steady stream of family members and neighbors from the community came in and helped strengthen him.

Ben amazed doctors and physical therapists by how quickly he regained his movement. On the other hand, they were puzzled with how a healthy 45-year-old man had suffered a stroke. Through some tests, they found an 8-millimeter hole in his heart, where a tiny clot had gotten through and shot straight up to his brain, causing the stroke.

After an operation to close the small hole, Ben is living a fairly normal and healthy life. He now laughs about the experience saying, “We joke about it all the time, it’s just good times. I don’t want to be sensitive about it, that’s just my personality.” Even in the face of hardship, Ben lives his life with a smile on his face.

Ben is very thankful to the nurses he had at Mountain View Hospital in Payson, Utah. “They lifted my spirits quite a bit and they were also very attentive,” he says. He is especially thankful, though, for the swift reaction of Zak. “I’m very fortunate that Zak was able to recognize the symptoms,” he says. Who knows if he would be here today without Zak’s actions?

Although Zak is not a nursing or medical student, he was able to save a life by simply knowing stroke symptoms and how to react. A stroke can hit in any moment, and it is important that we also know what to do, in case we need to become a hero in an instant.

 

Follow the link below to learn more about the risks as well as how to recognize and react to a stroke.

https://www.stroke.org/

Pageants, Prison and Pediatrics; A Spotlight on Nursing Alumna Catherine Whittaker

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Whittaker serving in a retirement home after winning Ms. Utah Senior. Photos courtesy of Whittaker.

By Corbin Smith

Jesus Christ once taught, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.” Christ went on to illustrate this concept by sharing a story we all know and love: The Good Samaritan. While on a trip to Jerico, a Jewish man was robbed, beaten and abandoned by a group of thieves. While a priest and a Levite passed by this dying man without offering any help, a Samaritan, someone who had likely struggled due to social discriminations, stopped and helped nurse the injured man back to help. That example of service and compassion is exactly how BYU nursing alumna Catherine Whittaker (AS ’74) has lived her life since she was a young woman.

Catherine Whittaker was born and raised in Provo, Utah. Ever since her first breath, Whittaker has recognized the positive impact nurses have had on her life. When Whittaker was born sick and pre-mature, it was her mother, who was a professionally trained nurse, along with many other nurses that saved her when the doctors said it was unlikely she would survive. Later on in life, when her father left when she was 17 years old, she was charged with caring for her six younger siblings alongside her mother. These experiences as a teenager inspired Whittaker to come to BYU and study to be a nurse in 1972.

Since her days at the Y, she has been a registered nurse for 45 years in various medical specialties and settings, from labor and delivery to maternal fetal medicine. Incredibly, she has personally helped bring over 3,000 babies into the world. With all of her experience in the field of nursing, she says that she has learned two major lessons that have guided her life.

First, that service is based off of love. While working in labor and delivery, Whittaker had a personal experience with a close friend. As her friend got closer to the due date of her third child, various complications arose due to the Rh factor in her blood. Hours later, a beautiful 8 ½ pound stillborn baby was born. Whittaker was able to be with her friend in those heart-wrenching moments to comfort and lift her dear friend. Even though it is hard, Whittaker recognizes the impact of a caring nurse in the face of tragedy. “I love being able to have intimate experiences with each patient and their families, it really helps you love each person you serve” says Whittaker.

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Whittaker (far right), along with three fellow Ms. Senior America contestants. 

Second, when asked how nursing has set her up for lifelong service she says, “It gave me confidence in myself and allowed me to come out of my shell.” Whittaker is a woman of many talents and titles. In 2018, Whittaker was named Ms. Utah Senior America and was the 3rd runner-up at the Senior Nationals pageant. Together with that honor, she was presented the 2019 Mother of Achievement award, recognizing the impact she has made outside of her family.

Whittaker also spends a lot of time in prison! She is part of “Real Transitions” that helps women transition from prison to society, as well as she serves with her husband in a branch presidency in the Utah State prison. “Whether you are preparing a prescription for a patient or serving people in your community” says Whittaker, “you must be confident in yourself at all times.”

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Whittaker visits with a US Navy veteran.

Florence Nightingale once said, “I am of certain convinced that the greatest heroes are those who do their duty in the daily grind of domestic affairs whilst the world whirls as a maddening dreidel.” In a great piece of advice given from Whittaker to current nursing students she says, “Be creative. Do what you love. Serve how you love.” It doesn’t matter if she is on stage, in the hospital or with her husband John and dog Bojo at home, she truly is a hero to all.

Sharing EHR with the World

HPSN world

Photo courtesy of the HPSN World website

By Corbin Smith

One of the greatest opportunities a university faculty member can have is to receive funding that allows them to give a presentation at an academic conference. Yes, you read that right. Paid travel to go give a presentation. That is exactly what happened to two of our faculty members: assistant teaching professor Stacie Hunsaker and simulation operations supervisor Kristen Whipple. Last February, MedAffinity, a company that provides electronic heath records software and is the software used by the BYU College of Nursing, sent both Hunsaker and Whipple to the Human Patient Simulation Network (HPSN) World conference in Orlando, Florida to present on BYU’s success using EHR systems in the classroom.

Since the fall of 2016, the BYU College of Nursing has incorporated EHR software for the nursing students in semesters one through five and for graduate students in year one. As students complete labs and assignments, they input what they did into the EHR system. The labs that the students do can be reset after each lab, so students can have the same opportunity to complete the scenario. The flexibility that MedAffinity’s software provides is what helps BYU’s EHR system be so successful compared to other schools.

Many other universities have been wary about using EHR systems due to the difficulty to make it work properly and efficiently. Due to its persistence and patience, the college has shown that it can be done. “That’s what we were trying to do,” Whipple says of her purpose at the conference, “to tell people that it’s doable…and the things that we did could be done with any program.”

One aspect presented by Hunsaker and Whipple at the conference was an orientation implemented by the college. The orientation done by Whipple to students is “another big thing that changed our experience” she says. While nursing students are in their first semester, Whipple and her team of TAs go in and teach them how to input data and save their progress so each student can hit the ground running from day one. This has gone a long way in helping students effectively operate the software.

Over the last few years, university teaching of nursing has quickly turned to the realm of patient simulation and electronic health records, with the BYU College of Nursing leading the way. Hunsaker and Whipple are adamant that these programs will better prepare future nurses for their careers, and thanks to their work to motivate other universities to employ this new technology, the world of nursing is well on its way.