Art and Nursing: Exhibiting Art Within a Power Point Presentation About Oncology Nurse Navigators

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The above paintings are original works by Julianna Paradisi, and may not be used or reproduced without permission.

This year, I’ve had a few opportunities to try on the art of public speaking, a newish skill for me. The topics revolved around breast cancer, and oncology nurse navigation.

Recently, I was asked to speak to a group of inpatient oncology nurses about the role of nurse navigators for breast cancer patients, and the application to the hospital setting. Integrating the patient experience throughout the continuum of cancer treatment is a prominent part of what nurse navigators do, and inpatient nurses wanting to learn more (and earned CE) about oncology nurse navigation is exciting.  It demonstrates ONNs have an impact on patient care.

For the occasion, I decided to learn a new skill: creating a Power Point presentation. I know, I know, some of you were making Power Point presentations since your first elementary school book report, but you probably can’t write in cursive as well as an older nurse, or use a real typewriter.

Here’s the stipulation: because I am also an artist, I have a thing against using clip art or stock images from the Internet to illustrate my words. If you are familiar with my blog posts for Off the Charts you already know this.

So, not only did I learn to create, and present a Power Point slide show, I used jpegs from a series of paintings I made of mountains, illustrating the presentation from the perspective of my personal practice. For many, the word navigator connotes images of the ocean or GPS, but as a breast cancer survivor turned ONN, I see myself as a sherpa, someone who has climbed the mountain, familiar with its terrain and potential for treachery. I lead patients  up the mountain, summit, and then come back down. The paintings of mountains also suggest the barriers to care ONNs are tasked with removing for patients. The theme was woven into the closing remarks of the presentation.

Most of the paintings depict Mount Hood, the dominating peak and iconic symbol of Portland, Oregon, my home.

I gave the presentation with a sense of creative satisfaction in finding another way to merge art into my nursing practice.





Art & Nursing in The Clinical Setting: An Interactive Experience

Recently I had a unique experience as an artist and nurse.  At the hospital, I was stopped by someone I vaguely thought was a former patient, or perhaps a family member or supportive friend of a former patient, I really don’t remember.

Lung Ta (Wind Horse) oil stick on vellum 2007 by Julianna Paradisi

Lung Ta (Wind Horse) oil stick on vellum 2007 by Julianna Paradisi

This person, however, not only recognized me, but knew I painted the art hanging in the infusion clinic where I once worked.

“You sold the horse print.The one over the reception desk.”


“I really liked it. It was good. It was a print, right?”

“Thank you. Well, actually no. It was an original painting. I used oil sticks to make it.”

“What are oil sticks?”

“They’re similar to oil pastels, but big, like cigars. In fact, painting with them feels like how I imagine painting with a big, greasy cigar might feel. But they air dry over time, unlike oil pastels.”

“That sounds really messy, but your painting looked neat and precise.”

“Thank you.”

Mt Hood Triptych #2 oil on canvas 2016 by Julianna Paradisi

Mt Hood Triptych #2 oil on canvas 2016 by Julianna Paradisi

“I really liked it.”

“Thank you. So what do you think of the painting of Mt Hood I made to replace it?”

The the expression on her face gave her away, so I threw her a bone.

“Not so much, right?”

“It’s okay. I liked the horse.”

“I really appreciate your comments,” and I meant it.

As an artist I’ve stood through many gallery openings and art receptions. It’s rare for anyone to ask about what inspired the art, or how it was made. No offense intended to anyone, but a common experience for artists at gallery receptions is being approached by people wanting to talk about themselves or their art, not yours. They didn’t come to view the art.

I’m enchanted by this woman who spends her time in an infusion clinic considering the artwork on its walls; becoming fond of a particular painting, and wondering how it was made. She wasn’t there to view the art either, but she did. Not only that, but she had access to the artist, who is a nurse going about her nursing duties, until this brief respite, when the two of us discussed the art.

I do not believe such things happen very often to artists or nurses. I am grateful it happened to me.


Snobbery, Andy Warhol, and Healthcare Reform

White Tower (2004) oil on canvas From the Greetings from Slabtown Series. artist: JParadisi

     Last First Thursday, I was at  Anka Gallery .  The group show, which runs until January, is a benefit for P:ear and Outside In. The  opening was well attended, despite competition from the historic Civil War match in Eugene.   I meant to visit Tribute Gallery , but  became distracted by Olaf Gambini. Then, two separate and intense conversations with two not so different people kept me at Anka.   

     A conversation is intense when the persons speaking start looking around the room, wondering if  they’re being overheard, and if so, what the fallout might be.  

     I met an activist who is still advocating for single payer Healthcare Reform.  I have to admit my disappointment in Healthcare Reform, as the plan I read about becomes increasingly confusing while serving only a part of the uninsured population, for an increasingly incomprehensible amount of money.  The activist has not given up on single payer Healthcare Reform, and I felt hopeful again, even if it’s just my idealism showing. 

     I met an artist earning his living outside of his fine arts career.  I’m intrigued with how other artists pay the bills while staying true to their artistic integrity. It’s a touchy subject for some of us. While accepting commissions for art is considered “acceptable”, working as a nurse, or even in a totally art related field such as graphic art, is sometimes looked at with condescension.  

     Andy Warhol withstood this type of snobbery while trying to break into New York’s art scene.  A successful magazine illustrator, Warhol’s fine arts peers negatively labelled him  a “commercial” artist.  However, the outsider Pop Artist  proved himself a master of marketing, possessing an uncanny insight of American consumerism, by creating The Factory. It became the exclusive hotspot for everyone who was anyone.  You needed an invitation to get in.  Suddenly,  Andy Warhol became an icon and decided who was hot and what was art.   

     Snobbery crosses all societal lines, whether it’s deciding who’s a “real” artist, or who deserves healthcare.

Greetings From Slabtown


Corner of NW 13th & Marshall J.Paradisi 2003

Corner of NW 13th & Marshall J.Paradisi 2003


     The paintings in the series Greetings From Slabtown began when I painted the view from the window of the loft I was living in a few years ago.

      The White Tower, prominent in most of the paintings, is gone – torn down to make room for what is now The Wyatt. Incidentally, the  day that the tower was torn down and lay in rubble, was the same day that one of my very favorite cancer patients (a physician) died.  I knew he was dead the moment I saw the tower crumpled in sections in the street, on my way to work.  But that’s another story.

        My interest in these buildings expanded to include the beautiful old industrial buildings which grace the part of Northwest Portland once known as Slabtown. The name Slabtown refers to the wood mills located in the area, along the Willamette River. Portlanders used to go to these mills and buy “slabs” left over from the trees that were processed into lumber and use them for fuel to heat their homes.

       These old buildings, many abandoned and left in disrepair, nonetheless stand against the sky as graceful and elegant as old world nobility who have lost their fortune.

   The old buildings have weathered storms and upheaval. I see these landmarks as sentinels, surviving both prosperity and decline, now transforming into something new as Slabtown becomes the Pearl District and takes on another identity.

      They remind me that change is constant in life and not to fear it. No matter how attached I become to a particular time or era, place or person, nothing lasts forever. Good and bad times are borne, live out their purpose, then pass away. It is as it should be, though the process is often painful.

As a frail human, I grieve the losses that are inevitably experienced. As an artist, I find change inspiring and fascinating: a new opportunity to create. The past, present, and future are grand scale versions of the art process itself . As in creating a work of art, the choices and influences one brings to life are plastic, mutable, and up to the individual.

click on this link to see the remaining images of Greetings From Slabtown.




Laughing About Proctology

photo by J.Paradisi

photo by J.Paradisi


           Yesterday, a colleague brought to work an article from the Washington Post. It was a list of made up words and their definitions made by members of Mensa, who took real words and corrupted them by changing a couple of letters, then created a double entendre meaning for each new word. Several of the definitions referred to proctology, which is always a funny subject among nurses and, evidently, Mensa members. 

     We needed a laugh. The free fall of our economy is affecting health care, like every other industry, and the normal, over the top day to day stress is compounded by our national anxiety. 

     The other day, this played out in my difficulty to obtain information from a medical office that I needed to provide care for a patient.  I was frustrated and so were the employees of the office. I could handle that. 

     What I couldn’t handle was the  mantra of the day which was “This isn’t my fault”  prefacing each non-answer I received by phone from  every person I spoke to in the department.  I responded to each person in turn: “I’m not looking for whose fault it is, I just want to talk to someone who can get the information I need so I can take care of this patient.”  Through perseverance and two packs of chewing gum, I finally prevailed, and all’s well that…yadayadayada. 

    At  home, I sat on the couch next to my husband, and watched the evening news.  Over and over again, I heard CEO’s, politicians, criminals, you name it, say over and over again, “This isn’t my fault”, and dodge the questions with  non-answers… yadayadayada. 

     So, I’ve come up with my own new word and its definition to describe this rising epidemic: 

disinsinerate (dis-in-sin-er-ate): to absolve oneself of any responsibility or accountability for one’s actions; to reverse or prevent the consequences of going down in flames.

On Art And IV’s, Part II


Untitled. Oil/wood. J.Paradisi 2008

I know I have successfully placed an IV when a “flash” of blood, visible in the clear plastic introducer of the angiocath, verifies that the catheter is in the vein and not soft tissue.  Entering the vein with a needle is accompanied by the sensation of a pop, which is so distinct that often the patient himself will tell me, “You’re in, I feel it.”

There’s seldom any blood letting when I make art (sometimes there is), but I bring the same sense of focus to both the IV procedure and the art process. I know a work is complete when I feel a sense of conviction about the choices I made.  Once, in a critique, the painting I presented was torn apart by the group. I was told to take out the blue, change the red; nothing worked.   A few weeks later, a member of the critique saw the painting again, and remarked, “You didn’t make any of the changes we suggested, have you?”  I hadn’t.  It turned out to be my best received painting to date, and I sold it.

In nursing, this sense of conviction is called trusting your gut.  During the twenty-two years I’ve been a nurse, it has served my patients and I well, particularly on the few occasions I’ve challenged an order by a doctor.

As I write these last few sentences, I realize that what I want to achieve in the words I write or the images I make is this sense of dynamic conviction, not an absolute or static truth.  Appreciation comes when my reader or viewer comments, “You’re in, I feel it.”