Maintaining Curiosity in Nursing Practice

Insight is the unanticipated gift of creativity. It struck like lightning during a shift in the oncology infusion clinic.

A colleague asked, “Where does IV iron come from?”

Baby Doll in Conical Bowl by jparadisi
Baby Doll in Conical Bowl by jparadisi

I’ve infused the stuff into patients for years, but never wondered how the iron was obtained. From iron ore? By soaking rusty nails in water? It seemed unlikely it’s derived from blood products, as it’s often prescribed for bloodless surgery patients. However, what most impressed me was the curiosity that stimulated the question in the first place. It demonstrates thinking outside of the box, and beyond a task-driven mentality. Curiosity prevented her from mindlessly hooking an IV drip to a patient. She sought understanding.

Insight struck: curiosity is a foundation of creativity.

The questions “What, how, and why?” gave birth to science and art. They inspired Leonardo da Vinci to dream of contraptions which later became the basis of modern aviation. Artists ask themselves these questions standing before a blank canvas, a lump of clay, or the ingredients for tonight’s dinner.

My father, sitting at the head of our dinner table, told me many times, in his Italian accent (English was his second language), “Sweetheart, never stop devil-upping your coo-ree-os-ity.” I understood he meant: “Never stop developing your curiosity.” It remains excellent advice.

Maintaining curiosity in nursing compels you to create individualized methods for patients to organize and remember their home meds. Curiosity fuels your medication information searches and the creativity involved in formatting to educate people of various backgrounds: patients, their families, students, or coworkers. You create presentations that work best for any occasion: handouts, graphs, pie charts, or PowerPoint.

Curiosity leads you to use creativity in your nursing care plans:

Imagining what losing your hair feels like, you cheer up a chemo patient by helping her collect pictures from magazines of hairstyles — short, medium, and long — so she can visualize her new hair when it grows back. Maybe she’ll try a vivid new color too.

Wondering how to entice a patient to eat more, you explore recipes for textures and flavors of food that will appeal to him.

Why is the easiest question of all to answer: “Because I care.”

Nurses are creative in ways we care for patients. We don’t simply “push a button.” Neither do we stop developing our curiosity. This is the art of nursing.

By the way, IV iron solutions are man-made.