College of Nursing

Exemplifying Love through Refugee Care

8/15/2017 8:00:00 AM - Steven Tibbitts

As August graduation draws near, graduate student Nicki Broby looks back at how far she has come since starting the family nurse practitioner program (BYU’s master degree in nursing), as well as see how life prepared her for her research focus.

Broby’s nursing career began while she was on an LDS mission in Washington D.C. She was serving during the 9/11 attacks, and one of her immediate responsibilities was to help the Red Cross in their relief efforts. As she finished this service, she realized that nursing was the right path for her.

She transferred from BYU to Arizona State University to study undergraduate nursing, and after graduation started work in a pediatric intensive care unit with no thought of becoming a nurse practitioner. That changed when she got the service opportunity of a lifetime.

“In 2011, I quit my job in the PICU because I had the chance to live on a Navy ship for five months,” she says.  As an LDS Charities nurse representative, she traveled with other volunteers to nine countries, providing medical services to around 80,000 people. While serving as a translator for various nurse practitioners, she developed a deep respect for their ability to offer high levels of care to patients, sparking a desire to earn her advanced nursing degree.

After serving a two-and-a-half year part-time mission for the Church as a medical volunteer, she entered BYU’s graduate program in April 2015 and focused a thesis project on what makes international aid interventions effective.

“When I was doing my thesis, I found out that there was very little information for someone who says, ‘Hey, I want to start my own international medical disaster response team,’” she explains.

She presented the idea to then associate dean Dr. Mary Williams, who was immediately supportive and helped her assemble her committee, which included Dr. Jane Lassetter and Dr. Blaine Winters. All proved invaluable as mentors during the entire project, helping Broby improve as a nurse, writer, and researcher.

Step one was to interview leadership in various aid organizations in the United States, getting their opinion on what made their operations effective. Those interviews were transcribed and evaluated for successful strategies. Step two required obtaining input from workers on the ground.

“To do that, I was hosted generously by the International Medical Corps at their field operation sites in Greece and Jordan,” Broby says. For two weeks, Broby and a colleague traveled to three refugee camps, interviewing dozens of local aid leaders to figure out what improved and impeded their successes.

“It was jam packed; it was amazing and exhausting, and extremely informative,” she says. Their research highlighted various factors that people who want to get involved in aid work should consider. It also gave her a closer look at the refugee crisis, offering her precious insights into how ordinary people can show charity through service.

Broby also admires how both BYU and the College of Nursing specifically rely on the teachings of the Savior to enhance students’ experiences.

“It is obvious that Jesus Christ is the exemplar that we’re not just told to follow in this program, but that our professors are following,” she says. “That touches everything that we do, whether we are learning about how to treat the common cold or going to a refugee camp in Greece, it touches all of that, it changes all of that, and it deepens all of that.”