“Lucy Legg: Learning and Teaching the Healer’s Art,” Ensign, June 1987, 49–50
Lucy Legg: Learning and Teaching the Healer’s Art
As one of Lucy Legg’s former students says, “She is a true example of love, and that’s helped me to think of my patients as people rather than just something to take care of.”
Sister Legg’s example has influenced countless students and patients during her thirty-year career as a nurse and instructor of nursing at Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho. She has always loved caring for people. But she chose to teach because she believes that through teaching she can have a broader impact on nursing through the students she trains.
“It is exciting to teach young people the art of nursing,” she says. “I’ve always felt that showing love for patients and being concerned about their emotional needs is very important.
“It’s hard when you’re sick,” she adds. “Your defenses are down, and you don’t feel as confident about yourself. You need extra support then.”
Sister Legg’s concern for others has helped to shape the nursing program at Ricks College. The program emphasizes the “nursing diagnosis,” in which students learn to identify patients’ responses to their illnesses and to respond to patients’ needs in the best possible way.
In 1952, Sister Legg graduated as a registered nurse from the nursing school at LDS Hospital in Logan, Utah. She went on to attend Utah State University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in nursing.
She then moved to Washington, D.C., and worked in several hospitals in that area. Washington was a long way from home for Sister Legg, who was raised on a farm on the outskirts of Rexburg, Idaho. But she says, “I find that if the Church is where you go, then you don’t feel that far from home.”
While in Washington, she married and had two children, Mike and Jeff. In 1957, she accepted a teaching position in the newly formed nursing program at Ricks College, and the Leggs moved to Rexburg, where she has taught since, except for a leave of absence she took in order to receive a master’s degree from the University of Oregon.
During the next six years, Sister Legg had two more sons, Tim and Scott. Not long after the birth of their fourth son, Sister Legg and her husband were divorced, and she became responsible for raising four sons on her own.
When asked how she has managed as a single parent, Sister Legg says, “I’d say I’m an optimist. I try to look on the bright side of life. I find that I need to do that to keep enthusiastic. Our energy level is dictated a great deal by our mental attitude, and that’s why it’s so important to be positive.”
Her oldest son, Mike, says his mother showed her sons what love was all about. “Mother taught us how to play baseball, and she took us fishing,” he says. “And I’ll never forget the Fourth of July she cooked chicken for us, made a picnic lunch, then decorated the bike I rode in the parade,” he says. “Two hours later, she went to the hospital and had my last little brother, Scotty.”
For Tim, Sister Legg’s third son, his mother’s attendance at sporting events he participated in was a highlight of his growing-up years. “I remember when I was eighteen or nineteen years old, I was playing on our ward’s Young Adult basketball team. Mom had always supported us and had come to our games, and I was used to that. She wasn’t there at the start of one game, and I couldn’t seem to play up to my normal abilities at all. Then she arrived, and as soon as she did, I settled down and went on to have a great game.”
In 1974, tragedy struck the Legg family when ten-year-old Scotty was hit by a truck while riding a friend’s motorbike. Although he was flown to the Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City, his injuries were so severe that he died forty-eight hours later.
Lucy was depressed for a year after Scotty’s death. During that difficult time, she sought the comfort of the Holy Ghost. “I began praying more and reading about the spirit world,” she says. “Gradually, the Spirit comforted me.”
The experience helped her gain a greater understanding of the grieving process, which has helped her to comfort others in times of loss. “I often wonder how people who don’t have a belief in God make it through those experiences. If they don’t believe there’s a life after death, how can they cope?” she wonders. “These experiences reinforce the importance of helping patients and understanding their need for belonging and for having someone who cares.”
Sister Legg expects to retire within the next ten years. She wants to go on “a mission or two,” take some classes, work in her garden and on her genealogy, and perhaps learn a language. But in the meantime, she is enjoying every minute helping nursing students learn the art of loving and caring for others.