Nursing is described as an art and a science. I learned the science component with hundreds of hours of clinical, classes and study. I read research articles for enjoyment. I have used vacation time to attend nursing conferences to sit in hours of lectures to learn the latest techniques and evidence that guides my nursing practice. Learning the art of nursing has been a more subtle occurrence.
Artists are naturally gifted, but they rely on instruction from the masters of their craft and practice to hone their skill. I learned the art of nursing at the bedside of my patients. My patients helped me to develop my compassion, empathy, and patience. I learned what a person needs to feel comfortable while leaving this world. Children have taught me how to soothe, smile and distract to ease painful experiences. Young men addicted to drugs and alcohol have taught me tolerance of choices I do not understand. Grieving families have helped me to find the best words to comfort. I have learned that, “I’m so sorry,” is the only thing you can say; and that every silence does not need to be filled with words.
My personal space bubble has evaporated over the years. Patients and families need a hand to hold or a hug to feel safe and human. I have learned the art of humor. Laughter is a welcome treatment in nearly all situations. I have learned to listen in a way that a person feels heard. I have learned what people need to hear in order to leave this life or cling to it. I can motivate an exhausted mother to find her strength and push one more time. I am grateful to all the patients that have helped me to learn the art of nursing.
I am not an artistic person in a traditional sense. I can’t sing, paint or dance.
I have sat at the feet of countless people who have taught me the art of being human. My patients and their families have been both muse and master instructors.
Nurses sometimes forget about the art, and become lost in checklists, charting and extra shifts. It is easy to view patients as room numbers, ailments or obstacles to having lunch or taking a potty break. Remember to practice your art.
Patients are human. Humans need beauty in their lives.
Nurses create beauty at the bedside.
-Carrie Halsey MSN, ACNS-BC, RNC-OB