My direction toward the healing profession began at the University of California in San Francisco School of Nursing. This was in the 1970’s where I saw so many stages of humanity in the Bay Area. Those were days when the streets of San Francisco were filled with diversity and complexity. Flower children were in the streets and Hare Krishna devotees were dancing in front of Woolworths on Market Street. There was ample low cost housing in the downtown resident hotels for residents that we see now as homeless. I have vivid memories of my clinical assignments: public health home visits in the old hotels on Market Street, psychiatric nursing in the Menlo Park Veteran’s Hospital (famous for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), seeing Thalidomide and hydrocephalic children institutionalized at Sonoma State Hospital, and innovative behavior modification schools in Hunter’s Point for students with behavior problems.
My first job out of nursing school was working as a nurse in the Neonatal Intensive Care Nursery at UC San Francisco’s Moffet Hospital. I participated in air transport teams, high risk births, and various surgical procedures. Back then, the infants that survived usually had to weigh about two pounds. Now they save babies that weigh only one pound. I also rotated into the regular nursery, promoting parent-infant bonding and helping with lactation consulting. I found this part of my career very fulfilling and memorable, being witness to many facets of both life and death.
In 1988, my attention became drawn to the community and families. I began working as a school nurse, discovering a whole new world after being cloistered in the intensive care setting. I enjoyed working with students, their families, educational staff, and community. I discovered the importance of relationships—how “well” we get along with family and society influences the level of success in life.
Thus, I was drawn into the arena of mental health and began my pursuit of the Marriage Family Therapy License. My graduate program in counseling emphasized the importance of understanding the development of “self” which would then lead to better skills in getting along with people and society. This part of my journey took me into psychiatric hospitals, mental health agencies for children who have been abused, a geriatric community mental health agency, and a family community mental health agency. I was able to work with sand play, art therapy, play therapy, and movement therapy.
In 1998, I added another component to my professional career. I began working with the special education population as a school nurse. In working with the severely neurologically impaired and the emotional disturbed students, I found my journey coming into full circle. How we measure “wellness” becomes defined in a whole new way. This led me into realizing that “health and wellness” is relative to who we are and where we are in life. I would see children spastic, nonverbal, bound to a wheelchair, being fed by gastrostomy tubes, and think they were not well. I came to realize that how we relate to the world with our bodies is not as important as the relationships we develop with people and the world around us.