Art Making and Nursing Competence

The other day at work, my colleague, who was charge nurse, hung up the phone, smiling. She had negotiated a situation with another department, and was pleased with the outcome. Turning to me, she said, “You know, one of the things I really love about nursing is how it’s taught me how to problem-solve. I feel competent handling different things that come up.”
I was thinking about this yesterday afternoon, while working on an art piece for The Darlings’ Nursery, the installation I’m making for The Manor of Art. I was sitting in a chair at my work table, applying gold metal leaf to objects. I’ve never worked with metal leaf before. If you haven’t either, you should know that it’s about a tenth the thickness of  a transparent bio-occlusive,  self-adhesive dressing, and it does not have the easy -to -handle paper edges that many of them have. Read this to mean, it is almost impossible to handle, and tears if you breathe on it. I consider myself to have excellent fine motor control, yet I found it challenging to work with. Because I like a challenge, and because it was above 90°F in my studio, I had a rotating fan running, and had to time the placement of the leaf with the blowing of the fan. I wasn’t concerned at all that there is no time available to scrape the leaf off and redo the project in time for the show, but I was glad that I wasn’t using real gold leaf (it’s expensive). I’m brave, but not stupid.

Between cursing and placing the metal leaf , I mused over how relaxed I actually was about the whole project. After transporting sick children in helicopters, knowing that I can manage an airway until a patient can be intubated, defibrillating a child in pulseless V-Tach (in nursing school, they said I’d never see it), and safely administering chemotherapy, I realize that trying new things doesn’t really scare me. I learned how to set-up my stereo system and first computer years ago, because I realized it isn’t anymore difficult than managing arterial lines, CVP’s, ICP monitors, and ventilators in the PICU.

Nursing is complex, challenging, and stressful. I credit it with providing me with a large range of skills, and the confidence to expand my world.