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Virginia Jefferies’ Convocation Speech: Courageous in the Face of Fear

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Master’s program graduate Virginia Jefferies and her son.

Excerpt from Virginia Jefferies’ convocation address, delivered on April 25, 2019.

I didn’t think that I could ever become a nurse.  I was so afraid of blood and needles. When I was little, I passed out at my cousin’s house when he stapled his thumb, I passed out at the dentist office when he fixed my cavities. As a young woman, I passed out at church on Easter Sunday when my teacher talked about the Crucifixion, and as a college student I passed out watching the Miracle of Birth video in a family life class.  Then before my mission, I passed out at work at my office job, when my boss was telling me about what it’s like to have an episiotomy. She even called 911 and an ambulance came for me. I remember coming to, under my desk, with a paramedic removing my blazer. I certainly didn’t think that I would ever be able to become a nurse.

Then I served a mission… and while I was on my mission I almost passed out several more times. We visited patients in hospitals.  Just walking into a room with an IV in someone’s arm made me feel faint.

But when I came home from my mission, my own little sister lay in a hospital bed.  She had just had her spine fused and a metal bar installed in her back.  Out of my love for her, I stayed the night with her in the hospital.  While I was there . . .  I saw angels.  They were wearing scrubs.  They visited my sister all through the night, responding to her moans and cries.  They spoke to her in gentle, hushed tones and ministered to her.

That night changed me and I felt called to be a nurse. But that night didn’t take away my weakness. A few months later, I found myself at the BYU counseling center where a wise counselor guided me to start small and simple and to work up from there to overcome my fears.  She had me write a list in ascending order – of situations with blood and needles that scared me – and then slowly work through them to overcome my fears.

The first task on my list was to prick someone’s finger.  Fortunately, I had a friend that was an ER nurse that was kind enough to oblige my first attempt.  I was so scared. But grateful that I knew he would be able to take care of me if I fainted. I did survive that first lesson: sweaty, and clammy, but without passing out.

I was eventually accepted into the nursing program at BYU.  Unfortunately, I did pass out during orientation . . .  across the feet of the two girls sitting beside me.  During the break I heard one of them say, “maybe you should get a different major.”

Yeah, well, you can’t just get a different major if God tells you to be a nurse.  So, I persisted with faith and prayer, and miracles happened one after the other, and I did make my way through that list.  By the second year of the nursing program I faced the fear at the top of my list.  Witnessing open heart surgery.  As a nursing student I stood at the head of the operating table beside the anesthesiologist.  The chest was cleaned and draped for surgery.  I watched as the sternal saw cut the sternum. The ribs were spread.  I stood in awe of the wonder of the glory of God as blood dripped to the floor before me.  Just then the kind anesthesiologist turned to me and asked, “you alright?” and I said, “yeah, I’m alright.”  And I am standing here to tell you today that that was a miracle.

 

6 Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.

7 And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls. (Alma 37:6-7)

 

This is the work of God. When he calls us, he qualifies us too. Elder Neil L. Anderson, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said, “When we are on the Lord’s errand, he will be with us, he will strengthen us, he will build our capacities.” Friends, I testify to you that the Lord makes weak things strong.  When we get into the yoke with him, we do not pull alone.

Serving God’s children as a nurse is practicing the Healer’s Art.  With him, we walk on sacred ground when our patients experience heartache, loss, sickness, and pain. I have held a patient and cried with her after she received a cancer diagnosis. I have spoken with love to a young man who reluctantly survived an overdose.  We share our patients’ deepest sorrows and greatest joys.  I am so grateful to be a nurse.  The Healer’s Art is beautiful. He is with us. And he will make more of us than we could ever imagine.

More than a decade after I got my nursing degree here at BYU, I felt my Father calling me back to become a nurse practitioner. Several weeks ago at an urgent care, I had the opportunity to do suturing for the first time on a patient. His lip was split open, and blood was spilling freely from the wound.  I approached him with a gentle smile on my face, and my suture and needle driver in my gloved hands.  It was a big day for me! Ironically, I had just used my asthma inhaler. One of the side effects of albuterol is tremor. But I wasn’t scared. Once again, love replaced fear.

Our God is surely a God of miracles.  He joys in using the weak and the simple to do his work. Bring what you have, even if it’s just a few loaves and a few small fishes and you carry them in your shaking hands.  Don’t be afraid of the smallness of your offering. The Savior will take you with your talents and multiply them in his service.  With him, you can care for the five thousand. And when the wind picks up, and the waves start slapping at your legs and you get scared, just put your eyes back on him.  He will lift you. And together you will walk on water.

Our work is his work.  With him, we can do it. Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, teaches, “the Lord has never required expert, flawless effort. Instead he requests a heart and a willing mind.” Nurses and friends, we don’t have to be perfect today. The Savior gives us the gift to be human. You get to make mistakes and it’s okay.  Making mistakes is part of learning and growth.  Don’t give heed to voices that discourage you. God is with you. He will give us our daily bread. He will direct the spindles in our Liahonas as we exercise our faith in him to do the small and simple things. We can go forward with faith and there will be wonders among us. As our dear professor, Lacey Eden, told our class, “there are people out there who need you.”

Lauren Leininger’s Advice as She Leaves BYU

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Graduate Lauren Leininger looks forward to a bright future. Photo courtesy of Leininger.

By Quincey Taylor

Walking into your last clinical for your senior capstone is an experience all nursing students will eventually have. While sometimes daunting, leaving behind your preceptor to independently care for patients acts as a springboard from which nurses can launch themselves into their new careers. Lauren Jones Leininger, fresh graduate from the BYU College of Nursing, shares her thoughts and advice as she reminisces past experiences and looks towards the future.

Leininger is extremely grateful for the impactful experiences she has had in the BYU nursing program. She truly feels that the individuals she met here have left a lasting impression on her in every aspect of her life.

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Leininger and fellow nursing students on their Global Health trip to Ecuador. Photo courtesy of Leininger.

Here is some of her advice to nursing students that will follow:

  1. Become a licensed practical nurse your fourth semester

Leininger took the NCLEX-PN her fourth semester and became a certified LPN. She works at Horizon Home Health and Hospice, which hires many BYU student nurses every year. With this organization, she does home visits for children. While it is a great option for students to make money while in school, Leininger sees the value it gave her in building personal confidence as a healthcare professional.

She says, “While being an LPN isn’t what I want to do for my nursing career, it’s just been really great to have an experience where I’m the primary caregiver for a patient. I’ve grown a lot by being in charge and making decisions.”

It might seem nerve-racking to not have a preceptor helping you, but it is beneficial in the end. Leininger adds, “My biggest takeaway is I’m capable, I can do this. I’ve gained so much confidence.”

  1. Trust in your preceptor assignment

Leininger’s experience with her capstone preceptor in the Utah Valley Hospital ER was greatly impactful. She says, “The faculty at BYU work a lot to match us up with the right preceptor. I believe there’s inspiration involved with that, because I know that the preceptor I had matched me and was the perfect kind of mentor I needed.”

“At my last clinical shift, my preceptor and I just kind of talked about what my biggest takeaways were, and he left me with the challenge,” she says. He challenged her “to never give report of a patient to another nurse in a way that would taint their perspective of that patient.”

She has taken this challenge to heart and says, “We should be our patient’s advocate and stand up for them. It’s easy to make judgments and think of them a certain way, but this can impede the care you give.”

“Once you tell your own opinion of that patient to another nurse, you’re ruining that next nurse’s experience. My preceptor’s challenge to me was to always give my patients the benefit of the doubt and never, never label them. Because, no matter what, they are a person, a human being, and a child of God. Whatever they’re going through, they deserve respect. They deserve to be given dignity.”

  1. Be as involved in clinicals as you can be

Leininger believes that clinicals are a unique opportunity to learn and put into practice the things you learn in class. She says, “Make the most of every clinical shift you have and learn as much as you can. Be as involved as you can, even if it means measuring your patient’s urine output or something like that. That will show the nurse you’re working with that you want to be there and you’re willing to learn. Then they’re going to be a better mentor and a teacher to you.”

It’s also an important time to make mistakes and learn from fellow nurses, because once you graduate every decision has larger consequences.

  1. Listen to the faculty’s advice

BYU faculty are unlike any other faculty on the planet. They are able to teach not only the temporal but also the spiritual. Leininger is so grateful for the chance to be taught by such amazing faculty.

She says, “Obviously, I’ve never attended another nursing school. So I don’t know exactly how BYU is different from other schools. But I do know for certain that we have the spiritual aspect integrated into our curriculum that isn’t present in other universities. That was my favorite part about the nursing program: how our professors could incorporate the gospel into everything we learned. A huge part of being a nurse is being able to have the spirit with you to help you discern your patient’s needs and to empathize with them.”

That’s what learning the Healer’s art truly is.

In the future, Leininger is preparing to take the NCLEX-RN and find a job as a registered nurse. She feels well-prepared and recognizes the need to continue her education. She says, “A nursing career is a career of lifelong learning. You’re never going to stop learning; things are always changing.”

All the Good We Will Do

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Student Mikaela Heyland. Photo courtesy of Winter 2018-19 President’s Report.

Nurses in training at BYU work in the nursing lab with manikins that display symptoms like real patients or even talk.

Mikaela Heyland, a soon-to-be-graduate of the College of Nursing, says, “Now that I’ve worked in real hospitals, I realize that sometimes patients are emotional, angry, or just need to talk. I am better prepared because of the lab.”

She adds, “At BYU I’m gaining education for my career; I’m also receiving a spiritual education. I have grown because of classmates, professors, roommates, wards, and devotionals.”

Because this is her final semester, Heyland participated in the August graduation ceremony. Sitting there with 60 of her classmates, the significance of her BYU experience dawned on her. “We are all going out into the world to make a difference,” she says. “I thought about all the good we will do.”

Heyland is grateful to have received a scholarship. As an international student (she is from Canada), her work options are limited, so funding her studies at BYU has been challenging. “Someone’s donation lightened my burden,” she says. She continues working at a local hospital while finishing her coursework.

**republished from the Winter 2018-19 President’s Report 

Graduate Student Creates Coolsculpting Guide for Nurse Practitioners

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Photo of Harper. Photo by college employee Andrew Holman.

By Quincey Taylor

Body image is a hot topic in today’s society. From weight loss pills to diet regimens, it’s important for individuals to take the safe option for their own body type. Coolsculpting, also known as cryolipolysis, is one of the newest options on the market for individuals to change their body shape. Millie Harper, second year graduate student in the BYU College of Nursing, is creating a guide with the help of associate dean and professor Dr. Jane Lassetter for nurse practitioners to become more informed about this procedure in order to give the best care and advice to their patients.

It all started when Lassetter was at a beauty salon and noticed the coolsculpting procedure being done. “That didn’t really sit well with her,” explains Harper, “She thought that that should be something that should be overseen by health providers. She wanted to investigate further about the requirements and the risks and see if that was something that should be done in a beauty salon.”

Since then, Lassetter has done extensive research and has enlisted the help of Harper, acting as the chair of Harper’s writing project. This scholarly paper, which takes the place of Harper’s thesis, will act as a guide for nurse practitioners who may have patients who are interested in coolsculpting. Harper expounds that this will allow nurses to answer patients’ questions like, “Am I candidate? Would this be a good option for me? Is this something I should investigate further?” This guide will allow practitioners to be able to direct them to the best option.

In many cases, coolsculpting has provided lasting results for localized fat reduction. The procedure essentially freezes – and kills – fat cells in the body with a gel vacuum which are then reabsorbed into the system. Many times the process is focused on a certain area of the body, like the abdomen or upper arms. This isn’t necessarily a weight loss procedure, however, it focuses more on the sculpting of the body into a desirable shape.

Harper tells of the risks that are involved with the procedure, especially if the facility is questionable. She says, “Putting a cold device on your skin for 30 minutes isn’t always a good idea.” The biggest risk is frostbite, but other risks include increasing lipid levels and changing the chemical nature inside your body. Many times the individuals operating the machines have attended only a three-day course, and are only overseen from a distance by medical spa professionals.

It is important for nurses to be informed about this procedure because of its growing popularity. Body image is a big issue for a lot of people,” Harper says, “It’s important to be educated about it.”