Nurse receives Florence Nightingale Award for improving the health of LDS missionaries worldwide

Credit: R. Scott Lloyd
Credit: R. Scott Lloyd

For her work to improve the health of the Church’s missionaries worldwide, Deanne Francis has received the Florence Nightingale Award from Collegium Aesculapium, an association of LDS physicians and health professionals.

The presentation was made Sept. 29 at a dinner preceding the organization’s annual conference in Salt Lake City, where Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was the featured speaker (see related article).

In making the presentation, Dr. Donald G. Doty, this year’s president, spoke of his past service as chairman of Missionary Department Health Services. He said that in 2006, he journeyed to the Pacific Islands, where it became clear to him that a full-time nurse was needed for each Church mission in every island nation of the world.

Upon his return, the department’s Nurse Committee was reorganized with Sister Francis, a practicing nurse, as chairwoman.

“She and her committee accepted the challenge of having a full-time missionary nurse for all of the island missions in the Church and took it a major step further, trying to find a local volunteer or service missionary nurse for every mission in the Church,” Brother Doty said.

“She served from 2006 to 2015, when she was released to care for her dear, ailing husband, Howard, who, incidentally, started missionary healthcare as the first doctor to work at the Missionary Training Center in Provo. So this is a wonderful couple that have given a lot of service to missionary health.”

Brother Doty said that when Sister Francis began her tenure in 2006, there were 25 full-time missionary nurses. That had increased to 125 by the time of his release from the Missionary Department in 2013.

Addressing the group, Sister Francis said there are now about 200 nurses in the missions of the world, a figure that fluctuates due to callings and releases.

“They keep saying we need a nurse in every mission, and I keep saying, ‘We keep increasing the number of missions; I’m never going to get there,’ ” Sister Francis quipped.

“But we have a lot of young nurses who serve right out of school,” she added. “Everyone was a little nervous about that, but we have one very young nurse who saved her mission president’s life.”

The mission president was being treated for pneumonia, and the nurse, upon entering the hospital, recognized that it was inadequate for his needs. She insisted that he be moved.

“She got him to a good hospital,” Sister Francis said. “The doctor that was there when they moved him in was a thoracic surgeon. She told him, ‘I don’t want you to do anything until you call Dr. Doty in Salt Lake.’ He said, ‘Would that be Don Doty?’ She said, ‘Yes.’ And he said, ‘Oh, he’s the one who wrote the recommendation for my residency.’

“Do you think that was a coincidence? I don’t think so. I really don’t think so.”

Sister Francis said a young sister missionary was serving on a remote island in Samoa. She had been using a prosthetic leg since she was injured in an accident at age 4. She was doing fine on her mission until the leg fell apart.

Her family could not afford a $12,000 replacement for the prosthetic limb.

“So the mission president asked the members and the missionaries to fast and pray for this young sister missionary, which they did.”

The Sunday before she was to return home, a couple visiting Sabbath day services introduced themselves. He said he was a prosthetic engineer from St. George, Utah. They had come to Samoa to scuba dive and had decided on a whim to come visit the island.

The mission nurse stood up and exclaimed, “I know why you’re here!”

The couple ended up donating the $2,000 in materials for the repair of the prosthetic limb, and he helped put it together.

“These are the kinds of things that nurses are doing around the world,” Sister Francis said. “They never think they are going to do anything like that when they go. They never think they are going to hold the hand of a missionary who had a brain tumor and died. But that’s what one of our nurses did. She’s now on the Nurse Committee.”

The award was named for Florence Nightingale, who led a team of nurses that improved unsanitary conditions at the British base hospital in Constantinople during the Crimean War of the 1800s. She gained the nickname “the lady with the lamp” because she would hold a lamp while making her rounds at night to comfort wounded soldiers, Brother Doty explained.

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