Update: Response Essayist Kristy Layton

Checking in with an alumna who has used her nursing skills worldwide


Kristi Layton, 1997 SPU alumna and 2001 Response essayist (center), with new friends in Myanmar at Inle Lake.

By Hope McPherson (hmcpherson@spu.edu)

Photo courtesy of Kristy Layton


In late 2001, Response invited readers to submit essays about what it means to engage the culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Among the many essays that arrived, an essay written by Kristy Layton, Class of 1997, stood out. Response wanted to check in with Layton to find out what she's doing now.

Nursing aboard ship


Soon after graduating from SPU with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, Kristy Layton had embarked on M/V Anastasis. The Anastasis, part of the Mercy Ships fleet, was a 1953 Italian cruise liner that gained new life as a hospital ship bringing medical treatment to African nations such as Sierra Leone.


Layton served in West Africa while on the ship, encountering serious medical conditions rarely, if ever, seen in developed nations such as the United States. During more than five years on the ship, in addition to sharing her experiences with Response, she also wrote for Journal of Christian Nursing and for the American Society of Ophthalmic Registered Nurses. But in October 2002, Layton traded the coastal waters of West Africa for the U.S. East Coast, settling in Connecticut.

Not home for long


While in Connecticut, Layton began nursing at Yale-New Haven Hospital. She also earned a master's degree in public health from Yale University. But Layton discovered that the urge to travel and serve the poor overseas hadn't left her.


The daughter of a high school math teacher, she and her family had taken long, educational road trips each summer during her childhood. She traveled to Tanzania after graduating high school. Now, within two years of returning to the States after five years on the Anastasis, she packed up and began "traveler nursing." For the next three years, she took 13-week assignments throughout the country, filling in for nurses who were on leave. "Then I'd take nine months off and travel the world," she says.


Yet while traveling, Layton continued to find nursing opportunities. She served in a Cambodian children's hospital; she worked in a feeding center in the Congo; she provided health care to Amerindians in the Guyanan Interior in South America; and she went to Nepal to work in U.N. refugee centers. She also backpacked in Myanmar, lived on a pearl farm in northwest Australia, and has driven "the long way" from New York to Seattle five times (no direct routes for her). Layton carries her passport as casually as most people carry their driver's license. She has visited 55 countries and been on every continent except one — Antarctica.

Time in Seattle


Now with the economy struggling, the traveling-nurses opportunities have slowed as hospitals tighten their budgets. So Layton has returned to Seattle and taken a staff position in the emergency room at Seattle's Children's Hospital. She still keeps her passport with her and would like to return to Africa someday. "It's become a priority in my life to pare down and live as simply as possible," she says. "I live in a studio apartment and I drive a Mini Cooper named Lucy."


Why has Layton chosen this nomadic path to nursing?


"I've spent most of my adult life in nations where the human-development elevator never rises past the basement floor — lands haunted by unspeakable horror, the sort of place one never expects to find beauty, peace, or love," she explains. " I don't believe I have a career. Instead, I exist at the fragile, knife-edged apex of what Frederick Buechner defined as vocation: Where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.“


Exclusive: Related Response Video


Kristy Layton '97 recounts an awkward moment when she was readjusting to life in America.


Read the Yale admissions essay Kristy Layton wrote, describing why she has is drawn to what some call "hopeless causes."



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