Newly-hired Assistant Teaching Professor Kristen Erekson had been around the healthcare industry her whole life. Her dad was in healthcare administration, and Ms. Erekson recalls spending time in his clinic stealing Dum-Dum suckers and becoming familiar with that environment. Additionally, her paternal grandfather was a veterinarian. She was also inspired by her aunt Tatha, who was a neonatal nurse. When she was 13, Ms. Erekson wrote a time capsule that said, “This is my plan for the future: go to high school, graduate from Ballard High School, go to Rick’s college for two years, then BYU. I plan to serve a mission when I’m 21. I'd like to be an intensive care neonatal nurse, but I'm not sure.”
Ms. Erekson’s life took a detour from the plan she wrote in her time capsule. “I went to Truman State in northeast Missouri, and my undergraduate degree is in art history,” she said. “ I wanted to study something interdisciplinary and study abroad, which I did in Salzburg, Austria. I had a great academic experience. I always knew when I was an undergrad that I would go to grad school, but I assumed it would be in education because I was interested in teaching.”
When she got home from her mission in Venezuela, she decided to move to Provo. “I went through every program in the graduate catalog at BYU, and I picked five different programs,” she recalls. She finally settled on BYU’s public health program but was turned down due to a lack of experience, so she started volunteering through AmeriCorps in Utah. “I realized I love being in the clinic and the medical field,” she explained. “I've always loved it. I’ve always been drawn to it and love working with people. So I decided to become a nurse practitioner.” She completed the nursing prerequisite classes at BYU before enrolling in a second degree accelerated bachelor’s program in nursing at Johns Hopkins University.
Ms. Erekson completed her bachelor’s in nursing in 13 months, after which she worked as an RN for about two years before returning to Johns Hopkins for a graduate nurse practitioner degree. “I became a nurse practitioner and worked at a pediatric clinic in the DC area for six years,” she recalled.
After six years, Ms. Erekson decided to return to Utah. She explained, “I love the mountains. I have a lot of extended family here, too, and I have a lot of friends from DC that moved to Provo.” With friends and family close by, she started her new job at Utah Valley Hospital in pediatrics. “Kids bring me so much joy. I had a few job offers, but I went into a clinic for an interview, and they had dinosaur tables and cute things on the walls. I thought, ‘who wouldn’t want to work here?’”
Because of Ms. Erekson’s interest in education, when her friend and neighbor, Assistant Teaching Professor Sarah Davis, said there was an opening at the BYU College of Nursing, Ms. Erekson applied. She completed her application on Christmas Eve, and after some interviews and teaching presentations, Ms. Erekson became a BYU professor in July of this year. “It was a very spiritually uplifting process to go through,” she commented. “I feel very proud and blessed to be here.”
Ms. Erekson does a variety of things in her free time. “I am very involved with the Volunteer Care Clinic in Provo,” she said. This is a clinic where low-income members of the community with unmet medical needs can get free care. “I have been volunteering there for four or five years, and I’m on the board of directors, too,” she explained. “I am interested in helping our community in all sorts of ways, particularly the medically underserved members of our community.” Ms. Erekson also loves hiking, biking, international cinema, swimming, and traveling. “I aim to visit all six places where my ancestors emigrated from—England, Scotland, Wales, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. I’ve gone to four of the six. I have Scotland and Norway still to go.”
For nursing students, Ms. Erekson shares, “The quote that has inspired me the most for school and nursing education is a quote by President Russell M. Nelson. He said, ‘Education is the difference between wishing you could help other people and being able to help them.’ Sometimes in school, you get caught up because it’s so intense, and there’s so much to learn. You end up thinking, ‘I have to get an A or pass.’” She continues, “But if you can keep the perspective of and remember the Healer’s art, the end goal is not to get an A. It’s not necessarily to get a job. The end goal is to be able to help people. Students should realize that the more education and understanding they gain, the more they can help people.”
Looking back at the time capsule she wrote as a teenager, there are many things on the list that she accomplished. She graduated high school, served a mission, and became a nurse. Although she is not currently working as an intensive care neonatal nurse, Ms. Erekson has her whole future ahead of her. Welcome to BYU!