UPIKE Elliott School of Nursing’s Tauna Gulley coauthors book

In 2017, UPIKE Elliott School of Nursing faculty member and nurse practitioner Tauna Gulley began coauthoring a book about her mentor, friend and community champion, Sister Bernadette Kenny. The book, now published, is aptly named “Better for Being with You.”

Sister Bernie moved to Southwest Virginia from Ireland 40 years ago to begin missionary work in healthcare. Making an impact, however she could, Sister Kenny made keeping the care in healthcare her life’s work.

Gulley and Sister Bernie met when Gulley was an ICU nurse, and Sister Bernie was operating the Health Wagon. For remote areas of Southwest Virginia, the Health Wagon brought needed medical care and health education. 

At the time Gulley admits as a young professional, she couldn’t see the adventure Sister Bernie’s life had taken, and the magnitude of her impact. As neighbors, the pair kept in touch.

For Gulley, the writing process and idea to begin the book began during a trip to Ireland for a conference. While in the country, Gulley’s dear friend had arranged for a local friend to show Gulley around. It was during that trip that Gulley was able to visit the motherhouse of the Medical Missionaries of Mary (MMM), where Sister Bernie had trained.

“Seeing how the Medical Missionaries of Mary have created change and bridged so many disparities was motivating,” said Gulley. “I was able to see what could happen for good.”

It was when Gulley returned from her trip that she began to encourage and convince Sister Bernie that they needed to work on a book about her life and mission to the area.

Gulley recalls the many notes that began the writing process for the book. She would encourage Sister Bernie to write and talk about her memories and the growth of her health mission, and then Gulley would rework into a format for publishing.

Throughout the process, Sister Bernie’s focus was on education and learning. Gulley said that those principles are the only reason she even agreed to work on the book. She wanted her words and memories to help future students. The pair would meet on Sunday’s after church to begin writing and talking.

Not long into the writing process, Gulley realized how rare it was that Bernie had stayed to serve in the area for so long. For Sister Bernie, it was home, and somewhere she was called to invest long term.

“Bernie looks at the whole person,” said Gulley. “She’s deeply passionate about public health.”

In addition to continuing her Health Wagon, which now has multiple mobile units, Sister Bernie previously hosted a radio show, still attends health fairs and partners with local schools.

The forward for the book was written by award-winning author Adriana Trigiani, author of Big Stone Gap

With each chapter, there are reflection questions for the reader. Gulley said it’s these opportunities to connect and reflect that make the book a philosophy of life and care.

For more information on the UPIKE Elliott School of Nursing, call (606) 218-5750 or visit upike.edu.