College of Nursing

Culture, History, and Nursing Development

11/6/2017 8:00:00 AM - Steven Tibbitts

When assistant professor Dr. Sheri Tesseyman graduated from nursing school, she got her first job at a small hospital in Mount Pleasant, Utah. She recalls that it only had twenty beds, ten of which were used for storage. The X-ray technician was also the town’s police chief, and the difference between the main area and the emergency room was whether you came in the front or the back door.

“That was a great experience,” she says. “It was a good place to be right out of school—you had to use everything you ever learned.”

Tesseyman has come a long way from that small-town clinic to working at BYU. She brings with her a wealth of interdisciplinary experience that includes a master’s degree in anthropology and a PhD in history from the University of Manchester in England.

After graduating from high school, Tesseyman lived with her family in Brazil for one year before returning to the US to study nursing at the University of Utah. She also worked as a licensed practical nurse between classes.

She later earned her master’s degree in nursing from BYU in 1989, where she also met her husband. She seemed to be on a good path, but Tesseyman knew that she wanted to expand her nursing experience into other fields, particularly anthropology.

Tesseyman is no stranger to foreign cultures—she lived in Brazil, served a mission in southern Texas, and spent a year in Mexico while studying at BYU. Back in the States, she found herself even more immersed in the study of cultures.

“I got a position with Utah Rural Development Corporation working with migrant workers in the orchards here in Utah County, which was great,” she explains. Her experiences with migrant laborers in Utah and Salt Lake Counties pushed her even more in the direction of further study.

Finally, Tesseyman decided to go back to school to get a PhD in anthropology. She initially studied medical anthropology at the University of Utah, but following the death of the university’s specialist, she was awarded a master’s in anthropology.

“That’s been a great lens to see the world through,” Tesseyman says. “I would highly recommend that to anybody in any field. Study anthropology because it really gives you a great perspective on society and people and cultures.”

She then decided to switch to the University of Manchester in England to get a PhD in history, with an emphasis on 19th century nursing. Much of her research has revolved around the differences in the development of nursing practices in England and the United States. While it might seem unorthodox to bring anthropology and history into nursing, Tesseyman passionately believes that both bring additional insight into current nursing practices.

“Nursing is changing really fast right now, and it’s fascinating to see how various crossroads in the past have led to the way that we do things now,” she says. “I think it’s important to understand that to know where we’re going and what that means for health care, what it means for nursing as a discipline, and what it means for patients.”

Between studying and working, Tesseyman has always found time for family. She and her husband have three kids, and one of their favorite activities is traveling. Her husband is from England, and the family has always put a large emphasis on taking “holiday” to travel abroad. Sunday night board games are also a family favorite.

Before coming to BYU, Tesseyman taught at Westminster College for twelve years.