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Faculty Spotlight: Carly Peterson

Meet one of our new full-time faculty, Carly Peterson!

Meet one of our new full-time faculty, Carly Peterson! Carly is originally from the San Francisco area. “I grew up in California and lived there my whole life,” she said. “My very first move was coming to BYU as a freshman.” Now, Carly and two of her siblings have settled in Spanish Fork. “We all live within two blocks of each other,” Carly says with a smile.

Carly’s first year of high school was when she became interested in the medical field. Carly and her mom drove past the junior high school on their way home and noticed an ambulance. They thought nothing of it until they arrived home. “My mom got a phone call that my brother had been bit by a rattlesnake on the field at the school,” Carly says. Carly had the opportunity to ride in the ambulance with her brother. On the ride, Carly learned about an ambulance ride-along program offered through Boy Scouts. “All four years of high school, I was part of Boy Scouts,” Carly remembers. “That’s what I did for fun on the weekends. I also did cheerleading and student government–I did all the things–but every weekend, I went on a ride-along with the ambulance, and I learned so much.” She continues, “I met a ton of nurses in the ER, and I was like, ‘Oh, this is it. This is what I want to do.’” If Carly hadn’t gone into nursing, she would likely be an elementary school teacher. “Little kids just come to me, so the joke was that I smell like cookies,” she laughs. “I love kids. That’s probably why peds is my love.”

Carly came to BYU for the Utah experience. “I was excited to come here surrounded by people with the same thoughts, values, and beliefs,” she comments. “I realized that we are all on a different spectrum, and I loved that even more. We are all on different journeys. And we all know our Savior and God in different ways and levels. Yet, we all want to be moving in the right direction.”

“When I graduated, I moved back home to California. That was one of those funny things. I felt prompted to go home, and the problem was that there were no nursing jobs at the time, so I took a job in a doctor’s office.” Carly was a surgery coordinator for an otologist until a med surg position opened up. She worked in med surg for a year. Then, Carly’s sister graduated high school and headed for UVU but didn’t want to go alone. So Carly returned to Provo, where she got a job in the NICU. “It’s the love of babies combined with the intensity of ICU,” she describes. “But there are also times when I can just hold a baby while they’re learning to eat, and it’s not intense.” She continues, “The other thing that made me love the NICU was that sometimes your patients are with you for months, and I love that you get to know them, and you get to know the parents. They become your friends and your people. I still keep in touch with so many of them.”

When Carly returned to Provo with her sister, she met her future husband. “We met in a BYU ward, painting a fence,” she says. “I had a crush on this guy in my ward recently home from his mission. So we’re painting this giant fence in Springville for a family home evening activity, and I was trying to talk to this guy, but he was flirting with all the other girls. I was super irritated, so I took my bucket of paint, went down to the other end of the fence, and ended up next to my now husband.” They’ve been married for 21 years.

Carly decided to teach at BYU after visiting campus with her daughter and niece. “I had the most profound prompting that I needed to teach here,” she remembers. “My life was grand; my husband and I worked together at Utah Valley in the NICU. I loved what I did.” Following the prompting to teach at BYU would mean heading back to school and starting a completely different path. At first, she hesitated to follow the prompting, but she eventually began to move forward by applying to graduate programs. “I got in, but there was a pit in my stomach telling me, ‘this is not right.’” This bad feeling persisted until Carly’s husband admitted that he wanted to go to school to become a neonatal nurse practitioner and encouraged Carly to do it with him. They both graduated from the University of South Alabama. Being in the program together allowed Carly and her husband to support each other through school. Carly’s husband is now a nurse practitioner at Utah Valley Hospital, and Carly plans to do something in the future relating to neonatal health.

In her free time, Carly likes to hang out with her family. She also enjoys physical activity. Along with her mom and sister, Carly owns a Jazzercise studio. “We don’t wear leg warmers or leotards anymore,” she assures. Additionally, Carly loves watching good movies and TV shows. “I am a Marvel movie nerd,” she admits. “I had two surgeries this year, so I had all this downtime. I watched every Marvel movie in timeline order, down to every silly, little video they put out.” Her favorite Avenger is Hawkeye. Carly’s favorite TV show is This is Us, and she is currently watching The Good Doctor with her husband—though they have to ignore the medical inaccuracies. Carly also loves to garden. “I love planting flowers and deadheading and weeding,” she says. “When I go out to weed, my kids don’t come out to bug me because they know that I’ll ask them to help me, and they don’t want to, so I can turn on my music or book or whatever and get my stuff done.” Some of Carly’s favorite books are church books such as A Heart Like His by Virginia H. Pearce, Sherry Dew’s Worth the Wrestle, and Being Enough by Chieko N. Okazaki.

Carly advises nursing students saying, “I believe very much in connecting to heaven. God put you here; He’s not going to put you here so you can fail. He will assist you every step of the way if you’re willing to let Him. You must do the hard work but ask for help.” She also tells students to make time for the Lord. “Give God time, and He will magnify the rest of your time.” The second important thing Carly wants students to remember is that their worth does not come from their grades. “If you’re struggling, that doesn’t lessen who you are. You’re not alone in this.” Carly encourages students to ask for help when they are struggling. Finally, she advises, “Students work so hard to get into BYU, and then they work so hard to get into the nursing program. There’s that sense of competition. But as soon as you graduate, nobody knows what your grades were. No job has ever asked me what my grades were in nursing school,” She continues, “What has helped me grow is that I learned how to make connections. And I connected with my fellow students and my fellow employees. Those people around you, that’s your team. Make your cohort your team.” She implores students to set aside competition and help each other.

Carly has had many experiences where her perspective on nursing has changed, but one instance particularly stands out. She remembers a time at her first job when a woman’s husband was unapproachable. “I started chatting with them, and her husband softened a little bit. We talked about gardening, and the next day, I came to work, and they brought me this giant bouquet from their garden. This is what nursing is for me. It’s bigger than tasks. It’s that connection with people.” She continues, “The other thing that changed my perspective of my role as a nurse is being in the newborn ICU. I have often been the nurse that has removed life support on babies that are not going to survive. The spiritual experiences that I have had from that and the connection to families—even in the hardest, ugliest times of their life—are so meaningful.” She adds, “There is nothing more intimate and sacred and special than being a nurse and getting to connect with people in their lowest of lows, and sometimes in their highest of highs. You get to be in that intimate moment with somebody. What does the Healer’s art mean to me? It means more than tasks, more than a diagnosis, more than this disease or person. It is asking yourself, ‘how do I, even though I may not agree with any life decision that they’re making, still give the best care?’ It says, ‘I am going to love you, and I am not going to judge you, and I’m going to teach you better ways.’ The Savior doesn’t come in and fix it all,” she testifies. “He comes in and says, ‘let me teach you how to live a better way.’ That, to me, is the Healer’s art. It’s seeing people as a complete whole, getting down on their level, and being okay with where they are in their life.”

We’re grateful and honored to have Carly as an assistant teaching professor this year!