Alumni Spotlight: Kristen Painter

Kristen with her husband and son

Meet our next alumni spotlight, Kristen Painter! She is from Naperville, Illinois, and graduated from the College of Nursing at Brigham Young University in 2014. When choosing a university, Kristen had this to say: “I never wanted to go anywhere else. There was something amazing about being around other people with the same values. Having religion be an aspect of your education is such a unique opportunity. I never applied to any other schools.”

Because she spent time as a sprinter in high school, Kristen was looking forward to running track for BYU as a walk-on. “I tore my ACL freshman year,” she recalled. “I never got to run for BYU, but I was still working with the team. The coach was impressed with me, so I got to be their manager and travel with them all over the country. I had some cool experiences in college with that.”

When she started college, Kristen was set on doing a major that played to her creativity, such as English teaching. “I printed off a list of majors, and I crossed off everything that I was gonna not do, and then I just decided to go into advertising,” she said. She was then prompted to consider nursing, and when the feeling persisted, Kristen signed up for a nursing prerequisite. “I took one prerequisite thinking it would convince me nursing wasn’t right for me. I also took the advertising prerequisites and rocked them.” 

Sophomore year, on a visit to her home, Kristen prayerfully considered her life path. “I prayed this four-hour, heartfelt, Enos prayer,” she remembered. She was surprised when she felt the need to finish the prerequisites for the nursing program. “Heavenly Father knows us better than we know ourselves,” Kristen testified. “He wants us to pursue things that will help us in our paths, but also help His other children. I feel like there have people I’ve been a nurse to that no one else could have been a nurse too.” She recalled the beginning of nursing school when students shared what led them to the program. While many students’ answers demonstrated a lifelong passion for the profession, Kristen’s answer was simply, “I’m here because of prayer.”

Since graduation, Kristen has worked as a nurse and educator in many capacities. She spent some time as a private nurse before switching to hospital work in step-down ICU. “I did labor and delivery as a capstone,” Kristen remarked. “Hospitals weren’t hiring for labor and delivery at the time, but it worked out. I’ve always done critical care and felt it was the right place for me.”

After being encouraged to teach at BYU, Kristen worked toward a position as an instructor in the NLC. She remembered the interview process where nursing professor Sondra Heaston asked why she should hire Kristen. She responded, “I’m the teacher that understands what it’s like to be the student that needs the teacher the most.” This response came from a tough time in Kristen’s senior year when she struggled in critical care classes. At the time, Sondra and a few other professors reached out to mentor Kristen and helped her reach her full potential. This experience has built Kristen’s teaching philosophy which she described as saying, “I’m not just here to teach; I’m here to help in whatever way I can. I’m here to be a mentor.”

Kristen with students completing an escape-room lab

Along with this philosophy, Kristen applies her creativity to her labs, even organizing labs similar to escape rooms. Her creativity is even seen on her binder of teaching materials for the ICU lab, which is decorated with a pattern of eyes. “Because, you know, ‘eye see you,’” she explained fondly.

Because of her unique path to nursing, Kristen has gained a personal testimony of God’s love for her. “When Heavenly Father wants you to do something you don’t necessarily feel is the right path for you, He’s going to give you the capacity to do so,” she testified.  “I didn’t know I could have the capacity for the kind of compassion, service, and patience nursing takes. Heavenly Father led me to a path where I can understand Christ better, understand myself better, and serve His children.” Being a nurse is treating patients whose own bad habits and behaviors have caused health concerns. “Sometimes it’s hard to treat those kinds of patients,” Kristen admitted. “But I do it by knowing that Christ has already done that for me. The Atonements already happened. When we are Christ’s hands as nurses, we help patients access the Atonement in a way. We’re helping them have an opportunity to do and be better. If we have a patient who is a habitual smoker and if we leave them as they are, and don’t give them opportunities to change, it’s less likely that they’ll be a different or better person.” When Kristen was young, she had a poster that hung above her bed that read, “Live in such a way that those who know you but don’t know Christ will want to know Christ because they know you.” There is no better career for being a witness of Christ than nursing for Kristen. 

When she’s not acting as a nurse or lab instructor, Kristen enjoys making and eating Korean food, being outdoors, and spending time with her husband and three-year-old son.

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