Art & Nursing: At Scrubbed In Blog & in AJN

Because I’m an artist, one of the pervading themes of this blog is art.

This week, I had the pleasure of being recognized, along with two other artists who are nurses, in an interview by Meaghan O’Keefe, RN for Scrubbedin (the Blog) at Nurse.com. Each of us share our perspective on art and nursing, and why they are uniquely paired.

In their April 2015 issue, the American Journal published Yazzie, a painting from my Urban Horses series, along with a short essay about selecting art for the health care setting. I’m honored to have a collection of my paintings and monotypes hanging the the oncology infusion clinic where I used to work, giving me a special opportunity to pair art and nursing in patient care.

The Adventures of Nurse Niki: Nurse Characters Doing Nurses’ Work

This post was originally published on RNFM Radio‘s blog October 2013

JParadisiRN

JParadisiRN

I’m one of those nurses other people hate watching TV medical dramas with. I shout out: “Intubate her now!” or congratulate myself on guessing a diagnosis from a minimal amount of script information. People watching these programs with me say, “It’s just a TV show.”

But the truth is, it’s not.

When the same nurse characters are recreated over and over for public consumption by the entertainment industry they become woven into public awareness, and accepted as fact. I wrote about this in a previous post for RNFM Radio.

After my appearance on RNFM Radio earlier this year, I realized I want to create nurse characters closer to the truth, struggling with feelings of social isolation caused by intimate association to the trauma of others, and the accountability to act on it.

Nurses do not only witness the suffering of others, nor do we only hold the hands of patients in pain, or their hair out of their faces while they puke. We assess their needs, get them the treatment needed to alleviate their symptoms, and administer it. Other times, we cover their profuse bleeding with our gloved hands, yell for help, and initiate the ministrations designed to help them hang on.

Except on TV. On TV, physicians do all of this work. In real life, I have had the pleasure of working with doctors who actually did hold the basin while a patient puked, and I’ve even had one assist with cleaning a code brown. These are special people, performing outside of the work doctors are usually expected to do, not because doctors wouldn’t necessarily do so, so much as because doctors are not usually present when these things happen, and nurses usually are.

Anyway, in The Adventures of Nurse Niki, nurses do the work of nurses. Physician characters appear proportionately to how they normally do in real hospital units: during rounds, when summoned from the call room, during codes, procedures, and for admissions and discharges. Doctors are not constantly at the hospital coordinating and administering patient care, because that is not their job. It’s the job of nurses.

None of this information is new to either nurses or anyone who has spent a lengthy time hospitalized, but it appears to be new information for producers and TV writers who continue to populate TV hospitals with doctors doing patient care, while the nurses stand by waiting to, or asking for, help. Some TV nurse characters enter medical school, I suspect, so they too can get a starring role.

The Adventures of Nurse Niki is an attempt to make a 3-dimensional main character whose life is interesting because she is a nurse, not because she works in the proximity of doctors.

 

That Special Relationship Between Nurses & Doctors: A New Episode of The Adventures of Nurse Niki

The Adventures of Nurse Niki
The Adventures of Nurse Niki

JParadisiRN readers may know that last year I began writing a monthly blog post for Off the Chartsthe blog of the American Journal of Nursing. The latest post, Voice of Dissension: When Nurse Teamwork and Patient Safety Diverge published yesterday. I think it’s worth a read, and even a comment, if I do say so myself. For readers unfamiliar with JParadisiRN, I also made the drawing that accompanies the piece.

Buy Yourself Another One, The Adventures of Nurse Niki Chapter 27, posted today. It’s about the eating habits of nightshift nurses and that special relationship between doctors and nurses.

The Adventures of Nurse Niki is a work of serial fiction. The blog is formatted so the most recent episodes appear at the top. New readers not wanting spoilers of The Adventures of Nurse Niki may begin at Chapter 1 and scroll up from there.  Chapters are archived by month (click on the lined square icon on the home page). New chapters post weekly on Thursdays.

Off the Charts has this to say about The Adventures of Nurse Niki:

This blog is made up entirely of first-person episodes told by a fictional nurse named Niki. Each episode is short, detailed, and engaging, and it’s easy to keep up with it on a regular basis, or quickly catch up if you haven’t yet read any episodes. Jacob Molyneux, AJN senior editor/blog editor

Kevin Ross, aka @InnovativeNurse wrote a review of The Adventures of Nurse Niki, with this highlight:

Julianna has embarked on something special for the nursing community. The Adventures Of Nurse Niki is one of the most intelligent perspectives of life as a nurse. These are the experiences of a “real nurse” if you ask me. Nurse Niki is a smart and dynamic character who works night shift in the PICU at a California hospital. A good television show or fiction novel could certainly draw out the sexiness of working in the ICU, but with Niki’s story we quickly discover that this dynamic character is also struggling to cope with life at the bedside, and as a mother and wife. Hidden within each chapter the discovery is that Nurse Niki is in fact you. She’s me. Well that is of course if I was a woman.

You can interact with Niki on The Adventures of Nurse Niki’s  Facebook page. Please don’t forget to “Like” it too. Show Niki some love! Thank YOU!! to the readers following The Adventures of Nurse Niki, the retweets of  @NurseNikiAdven (Hashtag #NurseNiki) and those who Like Nurse Niki’s Facebook Fan Page. The support is very much appreciated!

A Blue Mason Jar Full of Post-It Notes Goals for The New Year

Note from JParadisiRN: This post was originally published on this blog in 2011. As it remains one of my most popular, I dusted it off for you to read today. Happy New Year 2014!

Every year I write my New Year’s resolutions on Post-It notes, filling a blue, vintageMason jar with them after reviewing the ones from the year before. I write the date on each Post-It note.  If a previous year’s resolution wasn’t met, and still holds merit, it remains in the Mason jar with the new ones.

Blue Mason Jar of Dreams photo: jparadisi 2011

Blue Mason Jar of Dreams photo: jparadisi 2011

Previous years’ resolutions in the jar:

  • “My health: that I may remain cancer-free” (1999)
  • “The continued good health of our families” (1999) I updated this one to “our families” in 2004, the year David and I married.
  • “David’s and my continued good health and happy marriage” (2008)
  • “To show a financial profit as an artist.” (2008)
  • “Gallery representation”(2008)
  • “Publish more stories in 2011” (2010)
  • “A book deal for my manuscript” (2010)
  • “The blog will have more than 1,000 visitors/month (2010)
  • “Lose ten pounds” (2011)

Most striking about the hopes and dreams on this list is that none of them are actually resolvable. They are ongoing. Sure, publishing The Adventures of Nurse Niki into a book, (or better yet, a TV series) would be great, however, knowing me, the next year I would resolve to write another book, one that won an award or topped the charts, or something like that. Artists are rarely satisfied with any level of achievement. We are always looking up the ladder at the next rung:

  • Gallery representation leads to the desire for critical recognition, increased sales, collectors, fame.
  • Publishing stories leads to writing more stories, longer ones, for larger audiences.

In general, human nature is much the same:

  • Health and happiness leads to the expectation for more of the same.
  • I lost ten pounds last year. For 2012 I expect to keep them off.

Resolution is the wrong choice of word. For me, setting New Year’s Goals is better phraseology. Most of the improvements I wish for in life take time and perseverance to achieve, and more hard work to maintain. To my way of thinking, New Year’s is a time to review the larger goals of my life, and see if they are still worth steering towards. If so, then I ask myself what small adjustments can I make this year to further them? These adjustments are written as goals on the Post-It notes, dated, and placed in the jar.

The most important part of opening the Mason jar each year is reading the hand written Post-It notes, and saying a small prayer of thanks or another expression of gratitude for the advances, which occurred over the past year towards each goal. There is no lasting joy in achievement without gratitude. This year, I am thankful for:

  • A clean bill of health when we were afraid my cancer had returned.
  • Editors who published my paintingsessays, and blog posts.
  • David and I lost weight. He avoided a prescription for blood pressure medication.
  • I was represented by Anka Gallery. I met wonderful people there and made lasting friendships.
  • I sold some paintings.
  • JParadisi RN blog has grown beyond my previous goals.

So what’s on Post-It notes this year? What goals am I steering my life towards in 2012?

  •  Remain cancer free
  • The continued good health of our families
  • David’s and my continued good health and happy marriage
  •  A financial profit as an artist
  • Finish the series of paintings and drawings begun in 2013
  • Gallery representation
  • Write and publish more stories in 2014
  • Increased writing income
  • The blogs, especially The Adventures of Nurse Niki will grow increased readership
  • Keep off those ten pounds

Here’s the cool thing about writing down goals: The Examined Life (Socrates). Today I see  each goal I’ve written down is focused on an unknown future. I haven’t written a single one, which applies to my present reality. So, until my dreams come true:

  • I will continue to develop my skills as a nurse so my patients remain safe in my care.
  • I will strive to be a better team player at work.
  • I will phrase criticism in a constructive manner.
  • I will remember that everyone has a difficult job. That’s why they call it work.
  • I will say Thank You at least once daily. It’s wrong to wait an entire year to give thanks for everything that is good in my life.

I wish to thank my family and friends (new and old) for your support of JParadisi RN blog. May your New Year be filled with Health, Love, Happiness, and Prosperity.

JParadisiRN Guests on RNFMRadio Tonight Oct 14 9pmEST/6pm PST

Great news!  I’m being interviewed on “RN.FM Radio: Nursing Unleashed!”, the newest internet radio station for nurses:

JParadisiRN’s interview is on Monday, 10/14/13  at 9pm EST / 6pm PST. You can listen in here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/rnfmradio

In my LIVE interview, I plan on discussing The Adventures of Nurse Niki, authentic nurse characters, and writing a fictional nursing blog.

JParadisiRN

JParadisiRN

In preparation for the interview, I wrote a guest post for RNFM Radio:

The Adventures of Nurse Niki: Nurse Characters Doing Nurses’ Work.

If you can’t listen in, bear in mind that the show will be immediately archived and available for listening on Blog Talk Radio (http://blogtalkradio.com/rnfmradio), and will also be quickly available as a free downloadable podcast on iTunes.

Call-in # is: (347) 308-8064.

The link to listen in on Monday, 10/14/13   at 9pm EST / 6pm PST again is: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/rnfmradio

I look forward to connecting with you then!

The Adventures of Nurse Niki Chapter 15: Two Separate Worlds is posted. If you’re a new reader, the chapters are short, so it’s easy to catch up. New chapters are posted weekly on Thursdays.

 Please Like Nurse Niki on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter @NurseNikiAdven

Bringing Art into Clinical Settings

by jparadisi

Hang Your Art Here by jparadisi

Nurses and artists share many characteristics. Donations of time and skills are perhaps the most common.

Nurses donate time by volunteering at health screenings, or speaking about risk prevention at health fairs. Artists often donate artwork to local charity fundraisers, or loan work for exhibition in a clinic or hospital lobby.

Art in the clinical setting may offer a sense of relaxation, joy, or even help to redirect the focus away from an unexpected diagnosis for a patient or a loved one — even if it’s just for a few minutes.

A reader asked about bringing art into clinical settings. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind when either asking for a donation, or curating a hospital or clinic art exhibition on a small budget:

  • All blank walls are not created equal: Hang art away from direct sunlight, which fades the inks or paint, and damages works on paper like drawings or photography. Walls in areas of high humidity are also a poor choice for hanging art.
  • Ensure the artwork is secure: This is especially important when the artwork is borrowed. Professional galleries insure artwork while it is in their possession, but your clinic or hospital probably does not. Artwork should be under direct observation at all times, and secured behind locked doors when not. I met an artist whose painting was stolen from a lobby wall, creating an uncomfortable situation for both the artist and the clinic.
  • If the work is for sale, have interested parties contact the artist directly: Don’t get involved in the sales transactions.
  • Get permission to use the artists’ names and photographs of their artwork: This is useful for promoting the exhibit hosted by your department or clinic in the hospital newsletter and local press releases.
  • Disrespectfully handling artwork is a quick way to lose artist support: Framing is expensive. Protect the corners and edges from dings. Don’t stack paintings or photographs on top of each other when preparing to hang or taking down an exhibit. Secure art from falls. If necessary, provide signs asking viewers to refrain from touching the art.
  • Showcase a particular artist or stage a group show: Choosing work related by themes, for example, photography, still life, or about a specific cancer, is another idea. Include statements written by the artist describing their inspiration. Often the artists will volunteer to hang the shows, and provide labels for the work if you don’t know where to start. Art therapists are good resources for creating exhibitions too.
  • Thank your artists: When artists donate artwork they can only deduct the cost of the materials, not the price the work sold for, from their taxes, so a proper thank you is crucial. An appreciated thank you includes the name of the work, the buyer’s name and contact information (with the buyer’s permission) so the artist has an opportunity to connect with a potential collector, and the price the piece sold for. Consider hosting a reception for the artists and buyers to meet.

JParadisiRN Illustrates Texas Tech Health Sciences Center Article About Alumni Winkler County Nurses

Any alumni of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center out there? That’s my painting on page 28 of their alumni magazine, Pulse. I’m not an alumni, but this image accompanied one of the posts I wrote in support of The Winkler County Whistle Blower Nurses, Vickilyn Galle, and Anne Mitchell, who are, for JParadisiRN.com. The editor contacted me for permission to use the image. I am proud to be connected in a tiny way to these two courageous nurses, who put their careers in jeopardy for the protection of patients.

Painting by jparadisi on pg 28 of TTUSC alumni magazine, Pulse winter 2013 issue

Painting by jparadisi on pg 28 of TTUSC alumni magazine, Pulse winter 2013 issue

Nurses: Telling Our Stories Can Help Others

In art school, I once presented a painting entitled, “Recuerdo (I Remember)” for class critique. The painting was inspired by my experiences as a pediatric intensive care nurse.

The image sparked an enthusiastic discussion among fellow students, during which I answered many questions about the role of nurses. One classmate told the story of her baby’s stillbirth decades earlier. She thanked me for the sensitive rendition, allowing her to share her story.

The instructor said, “You’ve got something here.”

Recuerdo (I Remember) by jparadisi

Recuerdo (I Remember) by jparadisi

Recuerdo appeared in the college’s continuing education catalog the following spring. I was pleased with the painting’s reception, but I realize it could as easily have had the opposite effect: bringing a classmate to tears. Nurses’ stories are proverbial double-edged swords. When wielded thoughtfully, they heal. Even so, they can easily cut someone else to the bone.

I am aware of the power of story when practicing oncology nursing. I was occasionally a patient at the infusion clinic where I now work. My coworkers view the story I bring from the experience favorably. That I can teach tying scarves into attractive head coverings for chemo-induced alopecia is a plus. However, through trial and error, I have gained judiciousness about telling patients I am a cancer survivor.

Here are some self-imposed rules I follow about story telling in the patient care setting:

  • Know your patient’s prognosis. It’s one thing to tell a newly diagnosed stage 1 breast cancer patient that you are a survivor, and that her hair will grow back. It’s something else entirely to say the same thing to a woman with metastatic disease. Tailor the story to the patient’s needs.
  • Talk about cancer treatment in universal terms. Some cancers do not have the same level of news exposure and financial support as breast cancer. Cancer patients should not feel they have a less “special” kind of cancer.
  • If you are not ready to answer questions about your experience, don’t bring it up. It’s natural for patients in similar circumstances to ask what treatment options you chose. If we’re talking about breast cancer, they may ask if you had a mastectomy. If so, one or two? They may ask about sexuality, too. You might be judged for your answers. You have to stay therapeutic anyway.
  • Allow patients to have their own experiences. Cancer treatment is not one size fits all. Do not assume that a patient shares your concerns. Exchanging information is often best done through asking questions rather than offering opinions. Let the patient direct the conversation.
  • Know when to let go. Being a cancer survivor does not make me the world’s best oncology nurse. The experience is simply a tool at my disposal. What’s best for most patients is a team of expert, compassionate caregivers bringing their unique experiences to the conversation.

Have you had a health condition that impacts your approach to nursing — or a coworker who has? What advice would you share?

Ah Yes! Back in The Studio

I write so much about nursing and art that I sometimes forget I’m a painter. Low census yesterday meant I had a free day in the studio, with this result. I love the flexible hours of nursing!

Untitled (Woman Holding Baby Doll) oil on wood by jparadisi 2013

Untitled (Woman Holding Baby Doll) oil on wood by jparadisi 2013

Random Thoughts: I’m An Artist

Three Horses by jparadisi

As much as I love making images of my heart’s desire as an artist, there’s something to be said for developing the ability to create an image on demand. It’s a little like working with a limited palette: it forces me to look at the available options, then push myself to create something I might not have imagined without the limitations/expectations. It reminds me of when I was in kindergarten and the other kids would line up at my easel with their sheets of paper and ask me to draw horses for them. It didn’t make me feel less of an artist, it told me I am an artist.