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Why I Stepped Out of The Hospital & Into Integrative Medicine

If we have the occasion to sit together in my office, you'll notice that behind my desk hang several frames holding diplomas and certificates. They're usually a little crooked, through no fault of my own – I straighten them regularly, but the health food store with whom we share a wall has really heavy refrigerator doors. Each time the doors close, they shake my frames from their perfect arrangement to something more chaotic. I often catch patients staring at the frames. I wonder if it's because they're trying to read the print on the papers inside, or if they're secretly straightening them in their heads.

It is quite an unusual array of credentials. Beside the certificates and diplomas for a masters in nursing with a focus in family health, there is my diploma from naturopathic medical school. Patients often ask me how I went from being a nurse to being a naturopath, and circled back to nursing again. Without going too far down the rabbit hole, I'll tell you.

I realized early in my nursing career that while medication, machines, and acute care are absolutely vital when they're needed, there was so much missing from healthcare. Nursing is, at its core, intended to be a very holistic profession. Nurses are meant to be advocates and teachers, as well as caregivers. Unfortunately, the whole-person approach to the patient often falls by the wayside when delivering care within the constraints of the current medical system.

I had the opportunity to take some alternative healing classes throughout my RN days, and felt drawn back to that foundation of holistic care. Somehow, I stumbled upon a description of naturopathic medicine and felt it resonated with how I wanted to practice. How it all happened is a blur, but I found myself in school to be an ND, committing four-plus years to a completely different profession. I devoured the lessons on herbal medicine, mind-body connections, nutritional therapeutics, physical manipulation, and whole-person health. I am still waiting to figure out where that physics lab pre-requisite becomes relevant...however, moving along...

Once in practice as an ND, I really enjoyed the time I had to connect with my patients. I was able to learn about their lives and could create a plan of care that used all of the gorgeous therapies I learned in naturopathic school. I continued to read the medical journals, and learned about new treatments and medications that were being developed. I still felt connected to that world as well. I often felt that my patients could benefit from therapies using both models of care. So when the pandemic sent me home to be still and think about life for a while, I decided to do what I swore (many times) that I would never do again: I signed up for another graduate degree.

What appears, on the outside, so very different between the two professions is, on the inside, very much the same. Once again, I found myself in classes discussing the underpinnings of nursing care - the holistic ways of seeing the patient and addressing their health challenges. I spent many, many days with excellent preceptors who understood the value of this paradigm and modeled it in their care as integrative medicine. Nursing, naturopathic and integrative medicine - all putting the focus on the individual and their unique needs.

I find integrative medicine to be incredibly exciting with its wide variety of treatment options. As I tell my patients, sometimes we need the hammer, and sometimes we need the laser-guided sliding miter compound saw (home improvement was another thing that I expanded on during the pandemic). I now have many more therapeutic "tools in the toolbox" at my disposal, with a variety of treatment options to help each unique, individual patient. I continue to be in awe at both the art and science of this medicine.

So, should we find ourselves sitting across the desk from each other in my office, please forgive the crooked frames. In all of my education, I never did figure out what to do about the banging of refrigerator doors. I will, however, use each and every one of the experiences represented in those frames to help you feel your very best.


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