Mendocino College Faculty in Focus: Fran Laughton
Born and raised in Austria, Fran Laughton, assistant director/clinical coordinator of the Mendocino College nursing program, came to the USA as a teenager in 1963. She attended high school in Bethesda, Maryland; then, she says, she "heard there was a party in San Francisco," and hitchhiked her way there. She worked odd jobs, met her husband, Bob Laughton, who was in a rock and roll band, and generally lived an idyllic, "hippy" lifestyle for seven years.
"When the scene turned ugly in 1970," she and her husband left the band, and spent the summer meditating at the Sino American Buddhist Association (SABA) in San Francisco. As she considered what she wanted to do with the rest of her life, the Buddhist principle of "right livelihood" resonated with her. She met a young woman at the SABA who was already a registered nurse (R.N.), and in talking with her, Laughton realized that the nursing profession fulfilled her personal criteria for "right livelihood."
She enrolled at City College of San Francisco, and graduated as an R.N. in 1974. She worked at Children's Hospital in San Francisco until 1980, when she and her husband came to Ukiah to join the Dharma Realm Buddhist community at the City of 10,000 Buddhas.
"Then things got interesting," says Laughton; "I found out how many things I could do under a basic nursing cap!" From 1980 until 2003, Laughton's career included: working in a family birth center in Willits; leading a research program for UCSF medical school; medical technical writing; co-authoring a model maternity care grant; and working for 13 years in medical investigation and case management at Child Protective Services.
During that time, she says, she also "picked up" a BA in nursing with a public health focus in 1989, and an MA in nursing with an emphasis in family practice in 1994. Along with the rest of her jobs, she has worked one day a week in family practice continuously since 1994.
Asked how she managed to do all that, Laughton quipped: "German efficiency, I suppose."
Laughton says she was in her 50's when she accepted the nursing education position at MC. She thought teaching would give her a chance to ease into retirement. "I thought I would have all this time off! I did not have a clue!" she laughs. "Because of changes in procedures, technology, and medications, at least 25% of the nursing curriculum is new every semester," she says, "which challenges me, and engages me on every level."
"It is ironic," she notes, "that I had more free time when I worked for the county!"
Known as "the Soul Crusher," for her high expectations, Laughton acknowledges that the nursing program is intense and demanding. She explains that successful MC nursing students have endured such hardships as a heart attack, the Hopland flood, and a divorce during their training, but each of them persevered and finished the program. "This is the level of commitment it takes to become a nurse," says Laughton.
She says her greatest joy is witnessing the personal transformation that occurs as motivated college students develop into professional registered nurses.
Laughton believes people might be surprised to know she is an amateur pastry chef. Another surprise: she travels to Paris every year—in the winter.
Married for 40 years to local musician, Bob Laughton, the couple have two sons and six grandsons. "I do love being a grandmother," she says, smiling.