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May 14, 2015 | News, Nursing

Art history major becomes oncology nurse


Baldwin City, Kansas — Two years after receiving a bachelor’s degree as an art major from Baker University, Brittni Sayers will cross the commencement stage once again at the Collins Center — this time as a nursing graduate with a job already secured.

Influenced by personal experiences related to health care throughout childhood and her time as an undergraduate, Sayers will be one of 42 Baker University School of Nursing graduates honored on Sunday in Baldwin City.

“I think it really was the best route for me to take and it also just exemplifies my interests and how diverse those interests are,” said Sayers of studying four years on the Baldwin City campus before heading to Stormont-Vail HealthCare in Topeka to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing. “One thing that really intrigued me about nursing as a career was that you could work 12-hour shifts. It will allow me to pursue my passion for helping others, and the days off between shifts can be used exploring the outdoors and expressing my creativity through art and music.”

Originally from Centerville, Kansas, Sayers has accepted a position on the hematology/oncology and bone marrow transplant floor at the University of Kansas Hospital. She plans to become an oncology certified nurse after about six months working on the floor. Her father, Loren, had cancer when she was in kindergarten, and the cancer returned her freshman year at Baker.

“His experience of going through treatment and working with the nurses was the one thing that really interested me in oncology nursing,” she said. “Nurses are the ones who provided most of the care, and I think my family could truly tell how empathetic and compassionate the field of nursing can be. I am excited to have such a strong focus, and my dad is my inspiration for applying to this floor.”

In addition to being inspired by the nurses who cared for her father, Sayers was inspired to pursue a career in the medical field after her brother was injured in Iraq a dozen years ago while serving in the military. She and her family traveled to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, where her brother recovered.

“It was a different culture there and everyone was there because their loved one had been injured overseas,” Sayers recalls. “There was a huge sense of community at that hospital.”

That experience influenced her decision to apply for the Veterans Affairs Learning Opportunity Residency program during her time studying nursing.

“It was an amazing experience that allowed me to connect with veterans, a population of people that I have the utmost respect for,” she said. “I chose to work on a psychiatric unit, and it really helped me to develop my communication skills.”

The summer before her senior year on the Baldwin City campus, Sayers traveled to Key Largo, Florida, where she was an intern at Island Dolphin Care. The dolphin assisted therapy program enabled her to work closely with children with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and autism.

“It was a wonderful environment,” Sayers said. “The program also worked with veterans at the Miami VA on Friday afternoons doing art and a swim with the dolphins. I heard many of them express how exhilarating and therapeutic the experience was for them.”

Her interest in health care and helping others developed in Baldwin City. She served as the public relations chair on the executive board for Up ’til Dawn, a benefit for the St. Jude’s Children Hospital. Her skills in photography and design helped promote a letter writing event for Up ’til Dawn. Sayers was an active member of Alpha Chi Omega, which focuses on domestic violence awareness as its national philanthropy.

“I think education on dealing with sexual assault and domestic violence is pertinent in today’s community,” Sayers said. “Regardless of which field of nursing you are in, nurses will always be dealing with the mentality of the patient. It is extremely important for them to constantly be able to assess where an individual is in order to provide the best holistic care possible.”

A liberal arts education helped put Sayers in position to succeed in nursing school.

“People always wonder how I went from art history to nursing,” Sayers said. “Somehow I think they fit well together. Florence Nightingale once said, ‘Nursing is an art. And if it is to be made an art, it requires an exclusive devotion as hard a preparation as any painter’s or sculptor’s work … it is the finest of fine arts.’ I believe in many ways my art history degree has helped me to become a better nurse today — even if it’s as simple as being able to talk with a patient about their favorite artist or artwork, it really has opened up doors for conversation along the way and has helped me observe and piece together information pertinent to the nursing process as well.”

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