January 11, 2021
By Jennifer Petkos, N.P.
The journey that led me to a career in Functional Medicine began nearly 15 years ago as a personal, rather than a professional one. It began early in my nursing career: I was a floor nurse at one of the top hospitals in Manhattan, my hair was already turning prematurely grey, and I was experiencing constant lower back pain. I might have taken these as a sign to leave the profession before long, but I did not. One of my best friends recommended chiropractic care and massage rather than orthopedic care and steroid injections for my lower back pain. I liked the idea of exploring a more holistic approach first, booked the appointments, and soon I was remarkably pain-free.
This was my introduction to “alternative medicine” and the beginning of an exploration. I sought to know everything about me, not only about my physical health but my mental, emotional, and spiritual health as well. As a Nurse Practitioner, this has become the core belief in my practice: that each patient should seek the same knowing about themselves. Although I believe health care providers bring valuable education, training and insight to the provider-patient relationship, it is the individual that truly needs to be the leader in their own healing. There is great value in the intuition each person carries about what works and what doesn’t for their own health, mind, body and spirit. I seek to help my patients to get in tune with this, because when a person can truly be still with themselves and listen, the body has an amazing way to tell us what it needs.
I have witnessed time and again people becoming lost and confused in our complex medical system, often with serious and detrimental effects on their health and wellness. I saw this first hand at the age of 15 as I watched my vibrant, loving, and selfless mother lose her way and fall into a deep depression in a just few short months. What the child me didn’t understand then, and what the adult me does now, is that my mother was likely experiencing the hormonal imbalances that come with perimenopause coupled with the rare “black box” side effects of the very medications that were prescribed to treat her symptoms. She lacked a strong support system, and the knowledge needed to accurately diagnose and treat my mother was not so readily available. My mother ultimately died in a fire, a self-inflicted end to her beautiful life that came without warning and much too soon.
As I grew and healed from this experience, I started a family and became a mother myself. I learned as both a healthcare practitioner and a woman how personal and sacred the birth process should be. Through my four very different birth experiences, I witnessed both sides of the spectrum in the professional medical support I received as I delivered my daughters. When asked by one of my OB/GYN providers why I wanted to have a natural, unmedicated birth, I explained briefly in my rushed 15-minute visit that I longed for a connection to women because of the loss I had experienced. I intended to honor the women who had gone before me and “done it for thousands of years”. Her response was “Yeah, they did it, but not very well! Women died in childbirth.” I eventually left that provider for an amazing midwife that supported me through two beautiful homebirths.
To be clear, in sharing my story I am not stating that medications and their side effects are always dangerous and should be avoided, or that natural childbirth is the only way to experience a beautiful birth. I value both science and intuition in healing. I deeply believe there is not just one right answer when it comes to treating the complex human body, mind, and spirit. There is a place for both conventional and alternative healthcare practices, and my goal is to strike the balance between the two with my patients. I am a provider who listens to your specific goals when it comes to how you want to heal, meets you where you are at, and supports you throughout your journey to wellness. Our stories are important to tell and you deserve to be heard by a healthcare provider that takes the time to truly listen. I can’t wait to meet you and be that provider for you.