Ode to a Pair of Nursing Clogs

This year I took a summer vacation, one of the joys of which was time painting in the studio.

I’ve migrated to three different studios over the years, but a single constant in each was my old pair of nursing clogs, converted to painting shoes.

My Nursing-Converted-to-Painting Clogs

My Nursing-Converted-to-Painting Clogs

In their earlier life, they spent ten years traipsing across a PICU, and even flew in a helicopter a time or two while transporting sick children in Oregon to Portland.

When I transitioned from PICU to adult oncology, they retired. In their new-found leisure, they started a second career as my painting shoes, where we continued to do good work together.

Anyway, over the weekend I returned to the studio and painted, changing out of my street shoes into the old, faithful clogs. They felt funny. In fact, one foot was suddenly closer to the floor than the other. I looked down, and entire sections of the right foot clog’s rubber sole had disintegrated and fallen off in chunks. As I moved about, the left foot clog did the same. I stared at them in disbelief.  I had not foreseen their imminent demise.

The Disintegrated Soles of My Nursing/Painting Clogs

The Disintegrated Soles of My Nursing/Painting Clogs

I did not have a second pair of studio shoes to change into, so I continued wearing them while painting, standing and walking, balancing on what remained of the core of their sole. We made one last painting together. I tried remembering the last patient I’d nursed while wearing these clogs, but could not.

When I finished painting for the day, I washed my brushes, and swept up the trail of black, crumbled rubber left behind on the studio floor. Removing the old, familiar clogs, I put on my street shoes, and placed the paint spattered, destroyed clogs into the garbage.

Move on. They’re just an old pair of clogs.

Besides, there’s another pair, retired when I left the infusion clinic for the oncology nurse navigator job, waiting in my closet at home to take their place in the studio.




Tells: Artists, Nurses, 7-Inch Stilettos and What to Wear to Work

This is Crazy Nurse Shoes photo: JParadisi 2010

Artists and poker players learn to read “tells.” Tells are little gestures and habits that inform (tell) an observer how an artist made a painting or what a fellow poker player will do next.

Recent  conversations on nursing blogs discuss the pros and cons of  returning to the white nurses uniform. Bloggers in favor of the idea feel it sets nurses professionally and visually apart, easily identifying us to patients. If a patient is unable to read the staff’s name badges for any reason in a busy hospital environment perhaps this is a good idea. Momentarily forget about printed scrubs versus white uniforms as a nursing issue. There is another tell that non-medical people identify us by as nurses: our shoes.

Can any other career minded group of people use a shoe makeover more than nurses?  What other clique of educated professionals wears brightly colored, clunky footwear with patterned socks and feels good about themselves? Even during off-duty meetings at the hospital most of the feet under the conference tables are wearing comfort footwear and socks. Maybe things are worse here in Oregon where comfortable footwear is an art form.

The other day my neighbor who works in sales and I were collecting our mail after work. As always she was beautifully dressed, but what impressed me most was her ability to stand and walk gracefully in 7-inch stilettos. The line of her legs went on and on; she embodied fashion as art. My neighbor stood as lithe as a bamboo reed.

 Most artists appreciate a strong sense of style. If you look closely even at grunge artists you will see the tells of carefully calculated facial hair and thoughtfully chosen accessories. You can identify the ones with trust funds by their orthodontically corrected, perfect smiles.

I wear street clothes under a white lab coat at my nursing job. I am not a complete fashion slouch, but despite wearing skinny jeans, and a european pea coat, my clogs were the tell announcing I had just gotten off  work.

Shopping in a swank shoe department in the mall I over heard a husky young man loudly announce to his girlfriend  “This is crazy, those are nurse shoes.”  My attention immediately diverted to the couple standing next to a display of brightly patterned, patent leather clogs. Yep, nurse shoes. My favorite brand in fact. The very first pair I ever owned are in my studio, splattered with paint and gesso. I wear them when I paint. Comfortable shoes are another crossover between my nursing and artist careers.

Just for fun I removed my boots and socks and tried on a pair of 7-inch stilettos in the swank shoe department.  The line of my legs went on and on. I stood without teetering, but realized if I took a single step forward I might fall to my death or at least twist an ankle, rendering me unable to work my nursing shifts. Instead, I settled for 2 1/2-inch, sexy little peep- toe booties. I can’t wear them to work, but maybe to one of those off-duty meetings…  Paired with skinny jeans, my legs look longer and I’ll learn to be content with that.