The woman behind the white coat

An inside look at Bethel University’s nurse practitioner.

By Kylie Bennethum | Royal Report

Sophomore Sarah Wallace found herself seated on the exam table in nurse Judy Jackson’s office for the second time.

“The lab results came back, you tested positive.”

Hearing those words from Jackson caused sophomore Sarah Wallace to become overwhelmed with emotion. She wouldn’t be joining her teammates in wearing the Bethel Royals tennis uniform in the fall. Wallace wiped the tears speeding down her cheeks. A gentle hand soothed her back while scripture was recited from a familiar Bible verse. Wallace was taken care of by more than just a nurse practitioner that day.

Jackson was burnt out from working in a range of intensive care units spanning Wisconsin and Minnesota. Barb Thomas, a nursing friend, would talk about her job at St. Catherine University. Jackson thought it sounded perfect. Thomas later notified her about a similar opening at Bethel University, and 11 years later Jackson is still thankful she took the position.

Jackson didn’t know much about the position, but called the office even before the position was posted.

“I really felt called by God to be there. I had never done something like that before,” Jackson said.

She joined the campus full-time in 2011. At Bethel, Jackson is not paid based on the number of clients she sees, which means she can spend extra time with each patient. Having the opportunity to collaborate with counselors when patients sign a medical release is another privilege other clinics don’t have, she says.

Senior nursing student Taylor Marr describes the nurse as a bubbly woman who loves her job.

“She gives the best tuberculosis shots,” Marr said.

Nursing students had to get the Mantoux tuberculin skin test before working in the hospital. This is the standard method used to determine whether a person is infected with tuberculosis. The pain of the procedure is offset by Jackson and her decorating skills.

“She likes Hello-Kitty, has awesome glasses, and is one of the sweetest women at Bethel,” Marr said.

“She likes Hello-Kitty, has awesome glasses, and is one of the sweetest women at Bethel.”

When senior Dan Sandberg felt ill in November, he went to the nurse who had helped him before.

“She had no idea what it was at first from the different symptoms,” he said.

After diagnosis and treatment, Sandberg received frequent emails and check-ups from Jackson.

“When she saw me in the hallway, Nurse Judy would always ask how I was doing,” Sandberg said.

From upper respiratory problems last September to his illness a few months later, the patient frequently visited Health Services.

“She was welcoming, comforting, as though she was a mother,” Sandberg said.

Job satisfaction for nurse Jackson comes from healing.

“When I see students get better in either mental health or physical health, knowing I got to be a part of that and their life is very gratifying as a nurse,” she said.

On the wall above her, thank you cards overlap from students.

“When you walk into her office all you see is pink and purple everywhere, which describes her personality,” Wallace said. “She’s pure gold. You go in feeling sick and horrible, and come out laughing and happy. Nurse Judy is the perfect person for that position.”

Wallace first met nurse Jackson in the fall when visiting Bethel’s Health Services for a mononucleosis exam. The blood test came back combining both positive and negative results. Immediately, the nurse sent the uncertain sample to a lab in North Carolina for verification. While waiting for results the following week, Wallace received a personal phone call from Jackson, twice.

“She felt not only like a nurse, but also like a mother figure,” said Wallace, who is from Wisconsin. “Being from out of state, it’s the best feeling having someone care for you and feel like home.”

After receiving her results, Wallace checked in once a week to see Jackson.

“She represents Bethel perfectly,” she said. “Because Bethel strives to be consoling, reconciling, loving, caring, and that’s exactly what Nurse Judy is.”