Harlem Word: Caroline Ortiz talks about her background in nursing and how she became interested in alternative and complementary therapy/medicine

Editor August 21st

Caroline E. Ortiz, RN, MSN, MPH, is a registered nurse working at Beth Israel Medical Center and at the NY Blood Center.  She is a practitioner of holistic approaches to health that include complementary mind/body therapies such as Reiki, clinical meditation and imagery, restorative yoga, and aromatherapy.  Here, she shares with us how she got into nursing and her life journey to discover her current nursing practice.

Q. How did you become interested in nursing?

A. I had no interest at first! I wanted to go to medical school, but the week that I was going, I changed my mind. Realizing that I now didn’t have a clear direction, I thought nursing was something I would do in the meantime. Plus, my mom was a nurse so I considered myself familiar with the profession. It turned out to be absolutely the right decision. I found that nursing offers not only a variety of career paths but these are full of profoundly rewarding experiences.

 

Q. At what point did you become interested in complementary therapies or integrative medicine?

A. I actually didn’t know that I was interested in that. I come from a Mexican-American background, and lived in an overhelmingly Hispanic area along theTexas-Mexico border. Although it wasn’t known as complementary medicine there, I was very familiar with the use of herbs, teas, and the power of prayer and rituals to treat illness.  But that was kind of my parallel life—I never really saw a connection between that and  the type of medicine traditionally practiced in the U.S. It turns out that that through coincidence (although I don’t believe in coincidence) I became more focused on complementary therapies in my career. However, it’s really been more of a life journey than a career path.

In graduate school, I met a nurse who presented on the use of  essential oils for health promotion, or what is more commonly known as aromatherapy. When she finished, I immediately knew that I would work with her someday—I didn’t know how, but I just knew that I would.
In 2007, she allowed me to join her at Beth Israel Medical Center as a student intern in integrative medicine. That led to training oncology nurses on mind/body modalities for the Urban Zen Initiative, and since July 2012, having taken on her responsibilities upon her retirement from the hospital as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Integrative Medicine .

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