How I got Started Writing

Just before finishing my PhD, the UCLA School of Nursing offered me a job as an Assistant Professor. I was warned right away that UCLA was a “publish or perish” university. That meant that if I didn’t publish research papers, no matter how wonderful I was as a teacher, I would not get promoted or receive tenure. I did have seven years to “make the grade.” The question was, what was I going to do research on? The Northern Paiute were in northern Nevada so dropping in on them over weekends was not feasible. I needed something I could do locally.

Since I was teaching psychiatric nursing to graduate students, I was in and out of the psychiatric pavilion at the UCLA hospital. It was a time when heroin detoxification occurred on the admission wards. It was a short-term detox program with community referrals for follow up. So, I decided I would do some research on the addicts. I was able to publish four articles on the addict’s behavior as well as the nurses’ attitudes toward having addicts on a psychiatric ward.

At the same time, I was allowed to offer an elective course where I could blend nursing and anthropology. I published an article on the course and published my first book which was a collection of articles that were the required reading for the course.

One year, I was asked to teach the undergraduate nursing research course. I had had a hard time with research courses in school as I could never quite follow the logic of the process. When I was assigned to teach the course, the textbooks were either by sociologists or nurses who tried to explain what a “research problem” was. Since I couldn’t follow the discussion, I couldn’t explain it to the students. Unfortunately for the students, I had an ah-hah moment during a lecture which seemed to make sense. Excited, I could hardly wait to talk about my idea with a colleague who had the office next to me. She immediately saw the value of the approach and we decided to collaborate on a nursing research text. It was fun! We convinced a publisher to take a chance on us and produced “Basic Steps in Planning Nursing Research.”  The idea was, research is simply one way of answering questions; and the type of question asked directs the rest of the research process. Have the text for my classes made my life much easier.

Several years later, my colleague, Marilynn J. Wood, and I realized Basic Steps needed a sequel. So we designed and wrote “Advanced Design in Nursing Research.”

When I was working on “Only by the Grace of God” I came across a manuscript I had written in 1974 while I was waiting for a Nigerian visa. My nursing mentors discouraged me from publishing saying, “It’s been done.” In 2016, however, there was the possibility of self-publishing. I still liked the book and the message. In fact I had published an article and three editorials on Patientology that stirred very little interest. On a hunch, however, I did a Google search on “Patientology” and found that other people had picked up on the idea. So, I decided to go ahead and publish the original book. I hired a content editor who happened to have her PhD in sociology to work with me and let me know when my thinking was screwy. Together we produced “Patientology: Toward the Study of Patients.” The central theme is a plea for patient centered health care. One month after “Only by the Grace of God” was published, “Patientology” came out.

Writing is absorbing. I have three other memoirs in mind and have started on two of them. Self Publishing remains my first option.


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