How did I get here? I lay in bed shivering while my husky readjusts himself to lay directly on my legs and feet. Well, at least it is warmer now. I impatiently wait for the heater to turn on so that I can feel my fingers and toes. My nose is so cold it feels like ice. You would think based on the description that I am bringing you back to a typical night in rural Michigan. However, I am describing a Tuesday night in San Diego, California. It’s the first week of March and at 10:30pm it’s 54 degrees. My mother would be ashamed but it’s true, I am literally freezing in southern California. In my defense, I leave the door open to the spare bedroom so that Leroy Brown, baddest husky in town, can sit on the patio at his leisure. Either way, California has made me soft. I can no longer tolerate weather less than 70 or any cloudy days. Wow how things have changed since my days of negative wind-chill and forgetting what the sun looks like.
As I lay in bed and really ponder; how did I get to this point? Not just in the aspect of my intolerability of temperate weather, but also in my nursing career. I am at a crossroads in my profession. I started off my nursing education at Duke in North Carolina. I loved going to school there, the south is such a special place. Between the sweet tea, basketball, y’all, ma’am, and country music I learned about people and culture in a way that I have never experienced. I graduated with my BSN and started working in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). I was part of the specialty nurse internship program where we participated in a preceptorship program and completed assignments outside of the standard 3 12s as a way to really deepen our understanding of the role as an intensive care nurse. Duke Hospital was a powerhouse of evidence based research, cutting edge technology, and the best and the brightest. People and patients came across the world to learn and be treated in this amazing hospital. I was feeling so inspired and motivated that I decided to pursue a higher degree, so that I could connect to my patients on a whole new level. I loved being a nurse, and what is better than being a nurse with more autonomy? Evidence based medicine, dynamic protocols, and research studies were my life. I loved it, and was eager to learn more. And then…California happened. Oh California, how you changed my essence of being.
California does something to you. Care free beach days, avocados, sunny trails, organic markets, and free spirits is my ideation of California. I never even had a desire to visit, I used to laugh when people would say when they grow up they want to move to California. Why? What’s wrong with Michigan? Oh…I get it now. TOUCHE California. You one up’d Michigan. I got totally sucked in, and my whole perspective changed. I suddenly cared more about my health. People were so health conscious and active here. Maybe since Michigan was frozen in ice for what felt like 8 months of the year, maybe that is why people didn’t exercise much. In California, I felt like everyone was running, surfing, or rollerblading the boardwalk. People looked like Barbies and were dressed to the nines, even if going to the grocery store. It was a drastic change from the typical Carhart overalls, baseball caps, and muddy boots. Farmers markets and overpriced posh organic cafes were my new favorite places to explore. I changed everything about myself; I would go to yoga once a week, I started exercising more, I started buying organic, I cared more about my appearance. And naturally, my perspective on nursing changed.
I should have seen it coming. I should have known that eventually I would start to divert from traditional western medicine. Growing up my parents never really gave me antibiotics. My mom was considered a hippie in a sense and my dad would always tell me that processed foods were bad. While I was a student at Duke I would complete case studies and my professors would note that I was always sticking to the non-invasive lifestyle modifications instead of prescribing medications. To me, that just made sense.
When I moved to California my holistic approach went full throttle. As a nurse practitioner, I knew I wanted to continue helping patients help themselves through diet and exercise. I quickly found that my patients who only wanted a pill or a quick fix often had numerous side effects that required more pills. My patients that had a great diet, exercise routine, and a positive outlook on life hardly ever needed my help. I became a firm believer that food is medicine and the body is miraculous. Given the right tools your body is capable of many amazing things. While keeping an open mind I began to study other types of medicine such as traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda. I love to integrate all of these different approaches into my care, and this is why I have reached a crossroad. In western medicine, you are either in or out. Insurance won’t reimburse you for any “alternative therapy” and often times there are conflicting fundamental theories. As a nurse practitioner licensed in the state of California I am legally bound to uphold a certain standard of care according to western medicine, even if I don’t agree with the certain approach. So here I am. Writing to you. I’ve made my choice and there is no going back. I can’t imagine not being able to share all the wonderful experiences that I’ve had while practicing integrative medicine. Thank you, California for making me so self-aware, organic, and free spirited.