Note: A reader emailed a request I write about bringing beauty and creativity to nursing practice. Here goes…
Finding beauty and creativity in our daily lives is vital for happiness. Art is a path along which the breadcrumbs leading us to both are found. This statement seems pretentious in a society cutting the study of art (music, dance, literature, painting, and drawing) from its educational system, regarding it no more necessary than so much fat sucked away through liposuction. Access to art is also eroding: on a recent trip, my husband and I paid $15 each for admittance to an art museum. Without funding, art, like health care, may soon be accessible to a decreasing number of people.
Art is essential in bringing beauty and creativity to nursing practice because it provides the humanitarian tools needed to find self-worth in a job that is complex, and often overwhelming, with waves of life and death crashing over our heads. It’s easier to empty a bedpan if you consider Prometheus and his love of humanity while you clean. For other nursing tasks, the punishment of futility dealt to Sisyphus perhaps comes to mind more often. The longevity of Shakespeare’s plays speaks to their grasp of human psychology and motivation.
Art and literature provide archetypes we can apply to our modern lives. Excluding the arts from a life science curriculum leaves us searching for meaning without a compass. The ability to apply meaningful ideas from art and literature to our daily lives promotes sustainable happiness.
Connecting patient care to images from art and literature fuels my writing and painting. It protects me from burnout. I credit it with the fact I still love being a nurse twenty-five years after becoming one. In the words of James M. Barrie,
“It is not in doing what you like, but in liking what you do that is the secret of happiness.”