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About Cami Bruschke
If you just met Cambria "Cami" Bruschke for the first time, you would assume she’s been a professional career woman her entire adult life. She’s poised, well-spoken, loves to do research, lived overseas, and has a master’s degree in social work. Though she is now a senior consultant at the Mental Health and Wellness Care Management Institute for one of the largest healthcare organizations in the country, about five years ago, she made a bargain with God to get there.
In this episode, Cami shares how she graduated from college, made the conscious choice to put her career on hold so she could start a family, and then eventually returned to the workforce by going back to graduate school.
Though I knew Cami during the latter half of this story, I had no idea she had been faithfully and patiently waiting to embark on a career for more than a decade. Hearing the background to her journey makes this woman’s story all the more inspiring to me.
“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”
- Mark Twain -
A Personal Note about Cami
One of the great joys I’m finding in creating this website is the opportunity it affords me to reach out to amazing men and women who inspire me and have, at times, carried me as well. Cami is all of the smart and savvy professional things I mentioned above, but she is also one of those “salt of the earth” friends who will raise you up spiritually, support you in your trials, and belly-laugh with you as you’re running out of gas on the way home from Young Women’s camp.
Her kids hold a special place in my heart and her husband scooped up my kids at a time when they desperately needed a champion and role model. This podcast is about Cami, but I know as well as she does that her success has truly been a family effort.
What You'll Learn in this Episode
- How Cami intentionally planned her return to work while still home with children.
- How she used church callings and other volunteer opportunities to build her resume.
- How her family adapted to their new normal with mom working outside of the home.
- Most Importantly: How she sees the Lord’s hand in the unfolding of her new career.
Mentioned in this Episode
- Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
Download the Transcript
An Intentional Journey from Stay-At-Home Mom to Healthcare Professional
Guest: Cambia Bruschke
Cami Bruschke is a wife and mother of five awesome kids. She's also now a Senior Consultant of Mental Health and Wellness in the Care Management Institute at Kaiser Permanente. To start off with, I asked Cami to take us back to the moment when she first pressed pause on her career.
Cami Bruschke: I studied social work in college. Gosh, I knew in high school. I was one of those lucky people that really knew early on what I wanted to be when I grow up. I knew in high school that I wanted to go into social work, and it just spoke to me. I learned about the profession. That's the path I took. I got an undergraduate degree in social work, but there's really not much you can do with an undergraduate in social work. I knew that, really, to be able to do anything really meaningful or to have opportunities that I would have to get a master's degree. I considered getting a master's degree right out of my undergraduate, but I got married pretty young at 21.
I got married a couple months before I graduated. Then, I just made the conscious choice at that time to wait. Like I said, I knew I wanted to do it, but I wanted to do it at the right time. At that time, I felt like I wanted to support my husband through his education and start a family. I felt ready to start a family. I always had in the back of my mind, I'm going to go back when my youngest kid starts school. Then, that's when I'll go back and get my master's degree. That was my plan and I guess I've just stuck with it.
Shelley: Yes, you did. That's interesting, because it was in the back of your mind all along that you were going to do it.
Cami: It was for me. You never know where life's going to take you and you can't know for sure, but I knew I wanted a career. I knew at some point in my life, I wanted to have a career and to do something professionally. Luckily, for me, it did work out that way. There was a lot of transitions in our lives right at that time, and it worked out that I could go back.
Shelley: What were the next steps then? What did you do?
Cami: I had it in my mind even a couple of years in preparedness, and so I started to volunteer. I looked for some volunteer opportunities related at least to the profession. Lucky, I was living overseas at the time, and so there was a lot of great opportunities in international non-profits that I was really interested in helping out anyways. There was some preparedness even going into that. I also knew that that would help me decide a direction, because social work is super broad. There's a lot of different ways you can go.
I knew I also needed to start dabbling, to start understanding a direction that I would want to go, because I had to made some decisions for graduate school, too, like, do I want to do clinical social work? Do I want to do more community macro-level social work? Doing the volunteer work and things like that helped me to prepare for graduate school, get in to graduate school, and then go the direction from there.
Shelley: It seems to me that a lot of people- I'm going to add myself to this- are not purposely dabbling, but you were intentional about this?
Cami: Yes, I was. I was intentional. You always do volunteer work and things, but I was intentional in the sense of trying to find things that were specific to the profession, specific to-- that I could put on my application for school and to start building a resume. I think that there was a lot of church service at the time that I was able to also utilize, and I didn't necessarily anticipate that, but it worked out.
For example, I actually had my bishop, at the time- we were living overseas- write one of my recommendations for school, because I had a lot of leadership opportunity in a very unique place, where there was a lot of unique circumstances. That, I wasn't planning on. There was a little bit of both. There was some intent, and then there were some that just happened that I was like, "Hey I'm going to utilize this, because I've learned a ton from this experience. I've gained a lot of skills, so I'm going to capitalize that on a little bit and use that to help me, because I know it was applicable."
Shelley: I love that. When you did the application, then, were you nervous? Did you feel like, "Oh, they're not going to buy this," or did you feel really confident that the volunteer work was going to fit the bill?
Cami: No, I was not confident.
Cami: I was going against people who had been working. Most people had been working in the field and were using it as a stepping stone to move up to be able to have more opportunities and to do other things. I was using it more as a re-entry. I didn't feel like I necessarily had a strong application. Obviously, I think it did help me, probably, the international perspective maybe that I brought and some uniqueness there. No, I didn't have a lot of confidence.
Even came my first job and my first internship, I lot of it, I just felt super lucky. I really felt that I was blessed in a lot of ways, that there was a path that I was supposed to take, and the Lord was opening doors for me. I really feel that. Sometimes, I look back, and I don't know how I got in to graduate school. I don't know how I got that first internship that put me on a path. All of that was definitely without confidence. Looking back, too, because I know more now, I did have a lot of unique opportunities and experience that I was able to put forward and to bring forward. I'm sure that helped.
Shelley: You get your master's degree, and then I know you take an internship. Tell me about that, and then what you're doing now using that degree.
Cami: The funny thing about that internship, I have to tell it in kind of a story. For a master's degree in social work, you have to do two practicums. It's basically six-months long part-time of working in the field. Because I actually did an online program, I was pretty much on my own to get those practicums and defined opportunities in my community that would fit the requirements for that experience.
It was halfway through my master's degree- I was two years into it- and I had to find this practicum, and I had the summer to do that. I had to start in the fall, and it was just a really crazy summer for me. I had two family reunions. I had been asked to go to a Young Woman's Camp. I had been asked to go on trek that summer to help with our youth programs-- just really crazy busy.
I felt a little bit overwhelmed, because really, it was like trying to find a job. I had to contact organizations. I had to apply. I had the interview. I also really, really wanted to find something meaningful, because I was still trying to decide what direction. I was still thinking maybe clinical, but I wanted to-- I was a little bit more drawn to community. Anyway, I wanted something that I felt would help me make some important decisions about the direction I wanted to go, too. I didn't want to just find anything.
Anyway, I was super stressed about it, and so I was trying in between everything to apply and to interview, and I had gotten an interview with a school and had an opportunity to maybe do some school counseling. I wasn't thrilled about it. It was okay, and it was something, but it just didn't feel right. I wasn't thrilled about it. I saw a internship opportunity come up at Kaiser Permanente, which is a very large healthcare organization that's big in California. It just spoke to me when I read the job requirements were and what I'd be doing and the opportunities, and it was an internship.
I really just wow, I was like, "I'd really like to do that." [laughs] Again, I felt super inadequate. I was like, "I don't know why they would pick me," but I applied for it, and they called, and they wanted to interview me. They were scheduling interviews during this one week, and it was the week I was going on trek. I was like, "Oh, gosh." It was really stressful, but they were like, "Okay, we can do it right when you get back." They were nice about that and scheduled it for right when I got back.
I do remember having this bargaining moment with God, like, "Hey, if I go on trek and I do this for you, I need you to do something for me. I really, really need this internship. I really want this internship." Anyway that's my story.
I interviewed. I got a call back. I interviewed again, and I was offered the internship. I was able to make it work. It was also just not quite in line with the practicum. There were some things that didn't quite line up, but I worked with the school and was able to make it work, that it would work for this practicum. I'd also be able to have this experience.
Anyway, that was my start with Kaiser. Now, I've been with Kaiser for five years. I did an internship with them-- that practicum, which turned into a job. There was a project that I was working on writing a grant for suicide prevention. We got the grant, and and then I got the job to help move that work forward, because I had already started it.
Then, I did both for while. I finished-- I was doing school. I just didn't want to give up the opportunity. It was just a great-- I loved what I was doing. I loved the organization. I wasn't planning on actually going back to work at that time. I was planning on finishing my degree. It was a part-time. Here, I was part-time school, and then I was working about 32 hours a week doing this internship.
Then, all of a sudden, I made a decision I was going to continue to work 32 hours a week and finish my degree. I did that for two years, which was a little bit tough, but we got through it and had the opportunity to continue on.
Shelley: I want to shift in a second to talk to you about how your family adjusted to it. Before we go there, I know that you're doing something pretty meaningful now at Kaiser, which anything you would have done would have been meaningful, and I know how great you are, but tell me, specifically, what is that project you're working on?
Cami: I lead two national initiatives for Kaiser. If you're familiar with Kaiser Permanente, they're a very large integrated healthcare organization. They're in nine states across the United States. I'm a senior consultant on the mental health and wellness team and in the corporate offices in what's called the Care Management Institute.
Essentially, we look for best practices, research, what the research is telling us works, what other organizations that are similar are doing in relation to mental health and wellness that's working and how that might look in our organization, and then, I support the regions in implementation. I do a lot of program implementation, program development, program evaluation, things like that.
I specifically work on two of the national initiatives for Kaiser. One of those is suicide prevention. Then, I also do measurement-based care or outcomes-based care. Suicide prevention has really been what I've been doing from the beginning, so for the last five years. Really trying to look at how Kaiser, as a large healthcare organization, what we can be doing better in relation to preventing suicide.
Shelley: Cami, here's the thing that comes to mind, though, for me. I know there's often so many emotions wrapped up in going back to work, especially if somebody doesn't have to financially. When I hear about what you're doing, it feels significant to me. Does it feel that way to you?
Cami: Yes, sometimes, but I also just feel like I'm so small compared to the magnitude of-
Shelley: Of the problem.
Cami: -the problem. People always ask me, "Isn't it hard to work in--" It's harder for those people who are therapists, who are having to work on it on the front lines. I'm behind the scenes. I'm trying to figure out how can I support them, how can I best support them and give them the tools and the resources that they need to be able to be successful at what they're doing in trying to help people in the day-to-day. I feel like they're more the heroes. I'm in the background a little bit with that. It feels good to make a difference. I guess I went into social work because I was drawn to that.
Shelley: I think what you're doing is amazing, and I feel like, of course, you were blessed and that path was created for you because of how effective you can be in that role.
Cami: That's sweet of you. The interesting thing is so many people that are working in suicide prevention, specifically, have some type of experience or something that's really drawn them specifically to that. For me, it was more happenstance, I happened to help write a grant during this internship and just being there at a time and a place, and I didn't intend and go into it saying, "I really want to go into suicide prevention." It just happened, but I feel like it's what I'm supposed to be doing.
The way that the doors all opened and just the way the path went, it just felt right. I can't say for sure that's my lifelong passionate project that I'll be doing forever, but I've learned a ton. I've had a lot of opportunities, and it does feel good. It feels good knowing that I am doing something to have some impact on a really serious public health crisis that we're having.
Shelley: I love that. Okay, let's switch gears now. Tell me about the transition first, the five kids that are freaking out now because mom's going back to school or something. How did that go?
Cami: Yes, it was funny, because it's hard to think back that far. [laughs] That was a long time ago there. My youngest is just finishing up seventh. For me, I was lucky because it was a gradual transition. I started out with going to school part-time, and I was doing online, so I could do it while my kids were at school. Sometimes, I had to spend time at the library writing papers or things like that, and there's always that added stress. I'm sure they felt a little bit of that. There was a gradual build-up to it.
Again, we had just gone through a big transition in our life. We'd moved back from overseas, so there was a lot going on with that, too, so it, I guess, built into that transition. There was just a lot of transition. I think it was a really bonding time, because we were transitioning as a family, and my husband was still working overseas and going back and forth. They all stepped up, because we were trying to do things a little different.
My kids were super supportive; my husband was super supportive; and so it worked. I think, again, it was pretty mild in the beginning, because I was still around, I was still home. I think probably the hardest was when I started my new practicum, and all of a sudden, here I was going to work 32 hours a week away from the home, and that's two years into it.
The kids just really stepped up. I think that they knew that this was something that I really wanted to do and that was important to me. They respected that, and they really stepped up to help me and to help each other out. I think that that's been really something to see is them supporting each other and really helping each other, being willing to drive kids places or babysit.
I'm not going to lie, there's times they're like, "Mom, why do you work?" especially when I can't take them somewhere they want to go or when it inconveniences them. They're just like, "Why do you work?" There's this moment they'll lash out, and that little bit of guilt inside of me, "Because I want to." It's not all wonderful all the time. My kids are pretty independent. I think maybe, that's just a little bit of my parenting style. I'm a little hands-off, like, "Figure it out yourself."
I think that's helped, probably, because they're pretty independent, especially my youngest, because he doesn't really remember life before me going to school or working. He really only knows that. The two younger probably have a very different life than their older siblings, but I feel like they would have anyway, because when I had all my kids at home, we were doing kid stuff all the time and activities and things. Then, as the older ones got older, we just stopped doing those.
Shelley: Right. I think that's an interesting thought. I've never really thought about that before, that it was going to be different for them anyway. You've got five kids, right? The top one gets a totally different experience than the bottom one, and it was going to be different anyway.
Cami: Yes, I've thought about that sometimes. It changes as your family evolves. I think it would have been different for him anyways.
Shelley: No matter what, yes. I think you kind of answered this already, but you were pretty intentional and had some vision of where you were going, but what is a blessing that you couldn't see for yourself that now, you, looking back, realize?
Cami: For me, I don't think I realized how much self-growth that would come from this experience. I originally intended, I think, to go into clinical practice and be a therapist, but my path led to different way. Along this journey that I have taken professionally, I've discovered a lot about myself, about where my strengths lie, and recognizing that I don't think I'd be a good therapist for these multiple reasons, and I'm better at this. I'm better at figuring out how to improve things and how to make things work better and looking at big systems.
I just learned a lot about my own strengths, where I find joy and fulfillment. I've gotten a lot more fulfillment out of this than I probably even expected that I would. Then, I've also been able to use some of the knowledge that I have gained to help my family, to help friends, the community.
Shelley: Well, I know you have a very busy church calling, too, and it seems like you're able to bring what you've learned in your professional life into that environment as well.
Cami: Yes, and I've been surprised at, sometimes, how I'm able to help in ways now that I wasn't before, maybe, because I have some additional knowledge and experience.
Shelley: What advice would you give to somebody who's thinking about going back to school or going back to work after having been out of the workforce for a long time?
Cami: I would say be intentional. Maybe, if you find yourself in a position where you need to go back to work, and you just think, "I'm just going to take whatever I can find." Maybe think about it, think about what you enjoy, where your interests lie, what you find fulfillment in, and move towards that, and maybe to be a little more intentional. Sometimes, you might not know what you want to do, and I think that's okay, too. You got to explore different areas, but start out trying some things and venture out, and then you'll start to learn more about yourself and what you enjoy.
Then, you can start aligning with those things and seeing what's out there. I really didn't even realize how many different opportunities and things to do that there is until I started to get out there. I feel bad when people, I guess, settle for something that they're miserable in, because they just needed a job or they just wanted to go back. Like I said, it's fine if you don't know and you just need to explore, but I would say to try to be intentional as much as you can.
Shelley: I agree with you 100%, and I also think that whether you're intentional or not, you can find a pattern that speaks to your passion if you are mindful, like you said, to think back on those things that you've done. In the same way that you were intentional about a few things, but also, you received some church callings that you don't apply for those, but they did help you at the moment when you were supposed to step up and do this other thing. Okay, this is my last question for you. How have you seen the hand of God in your career?
Cami: I love that question, because I see it so much. I've really seen God's hand in my journey. I talk about that in my journey totality. Then, also, just in the day-to-day. My husband and I have always said that we feel like our life is a bit of a rollercoaster. We're just on it for the ride.
My favorite cliché scripture is Proverbs 3:5, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." I really feel like that's what it's about. I didn't necessarily plan or expect to be doing what I'm doing. It's just been placing one foot in front of the other and heading in a direction, and then taking advantage of opportunities as they came.
Because of that, I really feel like I'm where I'm supposed to be, that I'm learning so many things, and doors have been opened to prepare me for other things, and then doors have opened. I really felt like I've just been on this ride, and I'm grateful for it. I feel the Lord's hand in that.
Then, I think, as you know, I've spent years with the young women, and I think one of my biggest messages for the girls has always been that God has a unique plan for you, that there's things that He needs just you to do, and it's your job to figure out what that is. One of my favorite quotes is Mark Twain when he says that, "The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why." For me, that's been just a huge, huge driver.
Then, in terms of the day-to-day, I can't tell you how many times I get my kids off to school in the morning, those crazy hectic mornings when you're trying to get everyone fed and make sure they have everything they need, and I try to exercise in the morning, and then get them ready and me ready, and we're all getting out the door, and I sit in my car, and before I back out of the driveway, usually, that's when I'm like, "Okay, I need to say my morning prayer." I just take that moment and take a deep breath and say a quick prayer. I ask the Lord to help me in my work.
I do, every day, to help me make good decisions, to help give me confidence, because a lot of times, it's like, I'm faking it, I feel like. I need confidence. You don't have to find the right words to say, but I've always felt like He cares, even about those things. He cares about helping me be successful in what I'm doing, and I feel like I need that everywhere. I don't know what I'd do without that, asking him to be with me and just feeling that every day. I don't think I would have gotten where I am if I didn't have that.
Shelley: I love you already, but now, I feel like I've gotten to know you even better. Cami, you're so amazing.
Cami: You're amazing, Shelley. I always say, if I'm going to be stranded anywhere or be anywhere in the end, I just want to be with Shelley.
Shelley: Let's do it. I'm down for that.
Cami: You can do everything.
Shelley: Not true, but thank you. That's very kind. Thank you for giving me this time. I know you're super busy. Thank you for joining me today.
Cami: You're welcome.
Shelley: A couple of takeaways for me. One, if you do have plans to return to work or go back to school, I love Cami's advice on being intentional. Volunteer and do things that can go on your application or resume. I will add that if you pull back a little and see your life from a bigger picture, I believe you will see that you're already on a path, whether or not you know it.
Secondly, I love how Cami's family rallied around her. The answer of, "Why do you have to work, mom?" when things are stressful is, "Because I want to." I think sometimes, we, unfortunately, judge moms who have career desires when they still have kids at home. I hope you'll see, as I do, that there is no one way to raise a family. Some of my very best friends are stay-at-home moms, and some of the best moms I know also happen to work outside of the home.
On this podcast and on this website, I'll share many stories from women who started businesses, started jobs and more with kids underfoot. Please do not mistake my sharing these stories as me telling you that this is what is best for you and your family. I have no idea what path you should be on. That's between you and the Lord. If you do feel compelled to go back to work, I would love to help you.
You can find the course, Returning to the Workforce: A Guide For Stay-at-Home Moms, on the faithfulcareermoves.com website. Look for a button that says, "Get the Guide". All right, that's this first episode of Faithful Career Moves podcast. If you've liked what you hear, please leave a review and be sure to subscribe to this podcast so you can hear more inspiring stories from other extraordinary people doing ordinary things to support their families. Thanks for listening.