Memories of SSU
Oh, the memories: when the Second Step program for Registered Nurses was announced at Sonoma State College I was a nurse and part-time student working toward a bachelor’s degree in Biology. Married, with two school age children, the Second Step provided an opportunity that had eluded me: a bachelor’s degree in Nursing at a school close to home.
The program became an opportunity of a lifetime for me. I had no idea at the beginning that it would lead to a career, lay the ground work for an interest that dictated further education and provide friendships that would last for years.
The Second Step was unique in many ways. The learning groups into which we were placed on day one allowed for a process of learning with and from peers. The faculty leader of our group became mentor, teacher and a wonderful means of support and critique. My faculty leader was Laurel Freed, a terrific woman with whom I am still in touch today. In our groups as well as in the program we were encouraged to test our personal limits and to find the way to self-actualization wherever that may lead.
The advanced coursework we were offered expanded our knowledge base beyond our initial nursing education. Our choices of electives were such that we could augment the basic program to fit our educational and career needs. I took a counseling course that would foreshadow my career choices as well as post-graduate education. One course offering that I enjoyed immensely and found crucial to work in community education and organization was Microteaching, a course designed to develop my teaching skills. In our community health nursing course, the Community Assessment that was one of our first assignments prepared me well to find my way in new locations when my family relocated.
The hallmark of the Second Step program was flexibility. I learned the value of this feature of the program when suddenly at the conclusion of my first year my husband was transferred to Anchorage, Alaska. While the adventure of a move to Alaska was very exciting for our family, I hated to end the rich experience of the Second Step program after one year. I presented my dilemma to Laurel and then to the director of the program, Mary Searight. They plunged into the situation to see how I could continue by long distance. I was thrilled with their encouragement and willingness to assist me in solving my problem. Mary put me in contact with Arne Beltz, a nurse colleague in Anchorage who was Director of Nursing Services at the Anchorage Health Department. It took no time at all for Arne to identify a preceptor for me, a wonderful public health nurse, Jean Wolf. Jean was perfect as she was very focused on maternal child health. It wasn’t long before we had determined that I could take coursework at the University of Alaska, Anchorage and complete some of the Sonoma State College coursework by mail. We drafted a preceptorship which included time spent in well-child conferences, well-child home visits, home visits to families at risk for child abuse and neglect as a Parent Aide, and a role as coordinator for a community-based multidisciplinary consultation team for child abuse and neglect services in Anchorage. Vivian Malmstrom, SSU faculty member, would later invite me to write a chapter in a book, Mental Health Concepts Applied to Nursing, regarding the Parent Aide Program.
The community-based child abuse services were in their infancy in Anchorage at the time. A task force had been formed thanks to the leadership of Jean Wolf, George Brown, a pediatrician, Barbara Ure, a psychiatrist, and others to address the lack of services to families. The volunteer programs of the Task Force included the Parent Aide Program, the consultation team and community education to increase awareness in Anchorage of the serious child abuse and neglect problems in the community and the state. The task force would eventually lead to incorporating the Anchorage Child Abuse Board as a non-profit organization to be eligible for federal and state money which was becoming available due to federal legislation passed in the early 1970s.
My work as an “intern” during the preceptorship led to my becoming the first employee of the Anchorage Child Abuse Board. That relationship lasted for almost twenty years. I finally left the agency in 1992 after serving as the Executive Director and Clinical Director. Over the years the budget of the agency grew from the initial $2,000 to over $1,000,000. Services grew from the initial volunteer services to a fully staffed agency which included counseling services and a crisis nursery.
My experiences as an ‘intern’ led to my association with one of the team members who became a mentor and role model. I had developed an interest in mental health while in the Second Step program. After working closely with the psychiatric social worker who served on the consultation team, I eventually entered a graduate program in social work. I was able to maintain a practice in psychotherapy concurrent to my work with the Anchorage Child Abuse Board until I retired in 1999.
My connection to the wonderful faculty and fellow students of the Second Step program has enriched my professional and personal life. Our class reunions are opportunities for sharing the creative and significant contributions we have made to the profession and to our communities. Oh, the memories.