The call came as the day began on January 17, 2022. The voice on the phone was normally light and filled with joy, but not that day. The voice gently shared the heavy news that the Graduate Programs of Nurse Anesthesia family had experienced a tragedy. The heart-wrenching words remain clear, “Jen was in an accident yesterday…no, she didn’t make it.” Disbelief turned into a flood of memories about Jennifer Hestand Ed.D. (c), MSNA, CRNA.
“My name is Jen … only my parents call me Jennifer” is how she’d introduce herself. A dynamo of a faculty member, she taught with passion in the simulation center after joining the Texas Wesleyan University GPNA in August 2017. She staked her claim on OR 2 and taught over 500 students in as many hours for the past 4+ years. She declared that there was no way she would teach students with a nameless manikin so being a fan of Patrick Swayze in Roadhouse, she named her manikin, Dalton. At the beginning of every school year, she let the students know that she had high expectations because they might be taking care of her or one of her family members in the future. Students explained, “Jen did a great job of presenting the ‘real-life’ scenarios and not just the ‘textbook’ way of doing things,” and “I appreciated her high expectation of her students.”
While teaching in the classroom and online, she imparted knowledge about anesthesia practice environments, the professional organization, ethics, fluid management, arterial blood gas interpretation, and a multitude of other anesthesia-related topics. She wanted each class to be interactive, so she regularly flipped the classroom to encourage student engagement and participation. One student shared, “I really liked that Jen encouraged participation from the class. It makes the class more enjoyable and easier to follow along when the person lecturing opens a dialogue with the class.”
She was an academic advisor for 10-12 graduate students per year, but she wanted to know every student deeply and “be there” for them. As a doctoral student focusing on higher education, Jen would relate her own experience to students and encourage them to be resilient and not let failure discourage and derail them. She would find & share commonalities with students. Running and training for marathons brought her energy and joy. Over the years, several students and coworkers joined as she ran the Wesleyan 5K or around White Rock Lake, and on paths in Dallas and Fort Worth.
The GPNA faculty and staff knew and felt Jen’s love for life! Her quick wit lightened the mood in meetings and around the reception area of the GPNA building. A funny/snarky comment would change the atmosphere and often be followed with an admonition, “Jennifer Dawn…” from one of the administrative assistants.
Jen was a masterful writer and contributed to several published works. She would have graduated from the University of North Texas in December 2022 with her Ed.D. The university will honor her by awarding her degree posthumously.
While this article about Jen Hestand is written in the past tense, memories of her are cherished in the present tense. She was born and raised in Odessa, Texas, which is also her final resting place following her death on January 16, one day before her 45th birthday. Her parents, Doug and Pat, remain part of the GPNA family.