College nurse marks two decades of service at CRC


Helen Harlan

College Nurse Michelle Barkley standing in front of her office in the Operations & Public Safety Building. This year is her 20th year as a college nurse for CRC.

College Nurse Michelle Barkley said she always wanted to work as a student nurse at a community college.
Barkley laughed a little at the fact that she’s right where she wanted to be as she sat in her office in the Operations & Public Safety Building.
“Aspirations, right?” Barkley said, who’s a Lodi native.
Barkley, who just hit her 20-year mark working at Cosumnes River College said she loves what she does because she loves the students.
“I love what I do,” Barkley said as she shrugged her shoulders. “Being able to see students reenergizes me.”
Retired College Nurse and colleague Reona James, said Barkley’s commitment to helping people is just one of the qualifications that make her great at her job.
“She really cares about people and she follows through,” James said.
James and Barkley tagged teamed as CRC co-college nurses for eight years, before James retired in 2010.
“We had an opening for a college nurse and she applied,” James said. “She was the best candidate. We hired her and we have loved her ever since.”
For over 20 years Barkley spent many weekends at Lodi Memorial Hospital taking shifts in the emergency room in addition to her full-time work on campus.
Barkley said she retired from the ER in early 2020 because she felt the exhaustion and compassion fatigue from COVID-19.
“I could go on for days,” she said of the unprecedented stresses the pandemic placed on medical professionals, such as working out of a tent and unreliable internet.
Yet even during the pandemic, Barkley brought light to her nurse community.
“One thing Michelle is really good at is keeping morale up,” said College Nurse of Folsom Lake College Mary Hansen.
Hansen said Barkley’s enthusiasm during the pandemic was indispensable.
“She always finds something good to say. She’s not just doom and gloom,” Hansen said. “She really kept my spirits up during this time.”
Barkley graduated from San Diego State University where she earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree and later got her Master of Science degree at Sacramento State. She said she intends to stay committed to student physical and mental health to help young people cope with modern pressures.
“We live in a society where we want everything right here right now,” Barkley said. “We don’t move enough. We’ve become glued to technology.”
Barkley said her least favorite part of the job is technology. She said the last three year’s reliance on telehealth and lack of in-person interaction was the worst.
“I need to see, hear, feel, touch to be present, to do my best,” Barkley said. “The computer and I are not the best of friends.”
Barkley lives in Lodi with her two teenagers, Daniel, 18, a CRC computer science major and Isabel, 16, a junior at Lodi High School and her husband Ian Barkley, who works for San Joaquin County.
Ian and Michelle met as soccer players at San Joaquin Delta College in 1992 and married 10 years later.
Barkley said spending time with family is an essential part of her self-care along with taking walks and a monthly massage.
But to even a seemingly patient and compassionate person like Barkley, day-to-day frustrations can get to be too much.
“Things that push me to the edge are dealing with people who take advantage of other people, scammers, telemarketers,” Barkley said.
Ian Barkley said Barkley has a long fuse.
“She’s a very compassionate person,” Ian Barkley said. “It takes a lot to burn your bridges with her.”
And yet, Barkley is always ready to push back.
“For anyone that tries to put me in a corner, you can trust that I will come out of it kicking and screaming,” she said.