Finding balance.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


If you hadn't heard, I'm in nursing school in my third of four semesters, which is so hard to believe! (Wasn't I just starting?) I love nursing school, even when it has meant lots of late nights studying and some very stretching clinical experiences. I think I'll look back and see that these four semesters have been one of the best decisions I ever made. This semester I'm in OB, pediatrics, community health, and aging adult all at once, so I'm getting a pretty good picture of the whole life span. It's so beautiful and mysterious how God has created our bodies.

A theme that keeps coming up over the last few weeks is that I feel very open to alternative/natural/holistic medicine. When I went through my Celiac health crisis a few years ago, it was a natural doctor who finally diagnosed me correctly after 5 different internists had diagnosed me with a variety of other things... pregnancy (twice), diabetes, thyroid problems. So since that time, I've been much more open minded and even passionate about natural remedies, diet changes, and a holistic look at the body. We juice vegetables, we take elderberry syrup in the winter, we make homemade deodorant, we eat gluten and dairy free, and more. It's what has worked so well for us and has truly given me back my health.

While in nursing school - as I've been working in the thick of modern, Western medicine - I've seen some things that are unsettling... 
A triple bypass patient ordering a burger and fries for his first meal out of surgery (while the nurse holds the menu and makes the phone call).
A pregnant woman receiving an epidural at only 3cm dilated and no painful contractions yet (thereby immobilizing her for the duration of her labor), because she hasn't been told any differently.
Vaccines and hormonal birth control being pushed pretty hard.
Surgeries (like hysterectomies) that seem more convenient than needed. Maybe it's just me, but taking a whole organ out of your body shouldn't really be a first option if there are other things that can be done.

But there are also things I think Western medicine does really well. 
If I needed a cutting-edge brain surgery, I know I would be in the very best hands here in America.
If I was in a serious car accident and needed to be life flighted, or had a high-risk pregnancy, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

So I want to be balanced about it all. I know Western medicine isn't perfect, and I know the alternatives aren't perfect either. I know that pharmaceutical companies have too much of a say in how patients are treated because they have the most money. But I know that many alternative practices are not researched well and ride on tradition (for lack of money). 

So there it is. I'm thinking out loud about some things I've seen and felt with no clear answers as to what's next. As last semester is my very last semester in school, I have to decide what I want to do for my practicum which will possibly lead me to my first job as a nurse. I've gone back and forth between ER/trauma, OB (midwifery is appealing), community health, and I'm still not sure. I'm praying for wisdom and that the Lord would lead me to exactly where I am supposed to be. I know He will.

Any nurses out there gone through these thought processes? I'd love to hear! 


  1. Oh midwifery would be awesome! I could so see you doing that, but really, I could see you doing ANYTHING. You are going to (and currently are) make a difference is so many lives. I am totally with you on the some of the things that baffle me about modern medicine. I heard or read somewhere something (?!) about nutritional science today being where heart surgery was in the 1920's. It is so untapped but so powerful. I think of you often and as I am scrubbing my kitchen floor today, I will be praying that God will give you clear direction, waving red flags and opening doors and your heart to His very best.

  2. Whitney,

    I stumbled across your blog through a mutual acquaintance on facebook and I believe we had a Spanish class together at Baylor... Anyway, I am a three-year ER nurse out in San Diego. I still struggle to find a balance between western medicine ("we know best") mindset and more natural practices, especially in regard to childbirth. I think, given our profession, it will always be a struggle but I think it keeps me on my toes researching different treatments and being open to alternative measures. Natural childbirth does have a lot of research behind it and I enjoy being the contradiction in the ER. People are often shocked that I am an ER nurse and believe very strongly about natural birth control and childbirth. I just answer, "look at ALL the research". (On a side note you should watch the Business of Being Born)
    I take the western/alternative debates with a grain of salt. I am open minded to changing my views when presented with evidence. I educate my patients the best I can. I continue to research even though I am done with school and somehow I can reconcile being a massive part of western medicine with some of my natural tendencies.
    Be ready for the "real life" shock of actually working as a nurse and seeing all the school ideals not playing out. It took me about a year to not be discouraged and bitter and finally figure out who I was in the massive healthcare machine. I hope you find peace in what area you pursue and remember you can always switch around! I'll put my plug in for the ER as I started there as a new grad and never left. But, as people say, it can be a tough place to start and I would recommend (as I am precepting a new grad now) getting a class/practicum before diving may save you a lost of stress and heartache knowing what you are getting into before you sign a contract.
    Okay, there are my 4 cents. This may be my first blog comment ever to someone I don't really know so take it with a grain of salt.

    Blessings in your adventure,
    Megan Stevens

  3. my sister graduates nursing school this tuesday and she often calls me with these thoughts in her head! since i have not a clue about the nursing world, i'll definitely have to forward this to her!

  4. I agree with finding a balance. I find that there are certain things I am adamant about, such as vaccines, and things that I have given up, like hormonal birth control. I am also trying to find a balance between using modern medicine and having a continual "less intervention" life. I am sure you are doing such a great job...and you would make a great midwife. :-)

  5. girl, i am a fellow nurse and let me tell is a crazy world out there. i am but a few of the nurses who usually take a more holistic approach in my own home, but the general public/patients could care less.

    i am a L&D nurse, and i am blown away how many pregnant women are on vicoden and percocet during their ENTIRE pregnancy because its uncomfortable for them....I KID NOT!!!! it is soo depressing and well down right irritating.

    hang in there girl!! Can't wait to read more.

  6. Hey Whit ~
    Continue to let your heart lead want to provide to others what you would expect for yourself. I can also see both sides of medicine. Having just entered into the world of GF, as well as making friends with a naturalistic/holistic pharmacist, I'm seeing what my body has been lacking. I can totally see you as a nurse in the mission field...teaching others somewhere in this world what would benefit them...we both know that modern medicine isn't available for so many...researching what's available to them, and using it to the benefit of those folks...who knows...
    I look forward to seeing what God has in store for you...hang in there my friend! So worth it!
    Love, Cherry

  7. I don't know you personally. But, with the one baby I've had and now into my second pregnancy I've been so grateful for my midwives. They have so much say and influence in how your labor turns out, and how you feel during your pregnancy and learning healthy choices. It has made me interested in becoming a midwife in the future :)


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