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.

Never Stop Developing Your Curiosity: New Post This Week for TheONC

This week, I’ve written a new post for TheONC titled, Never Stop Developing Your Curiosity.  I discuss the role curiosity plays, not only in creativity, but also in patient care, such as helping a patient deal with chemo induced alopecia.

TheONC is an online community for cancer care teams with blogs and discussions covering a variety of oncology topics. Recent posts discuss palliative pain control, stem cell transplant, cancer risk after solid organ transplant, music therapy, and more. Individuals involved in the care of cancer patients can register for a site login, and join the conversation. Follow on Twitter @The_ONC.

Halloween Brain Cactus

Halloween Brain Cactus photo JParadisi

Halloween Brain Cactus photo JParadisi

 I bought my favorite 10 year-old a brain cactus as a Halloween gift. He like cars, motorcycles, skateboards, and some trading card game about fantasy characters with superpowers. He also likes houseplants.  The cactus is a hardy introduction to the care of houseplants. He’s remembered to feed the frogs I gave him last summer, and they thrive.  He’s a natural at nurturing, and perhaps I should give him an orchid instead.

       But, I bought him a brain cactus, and it’s cool. I remember my grandmother’s Christmas cactus and African violets, when I was a child. By the time I was in junior high school, I had my own collection of over 50 houseplants in the 8′ x 11′ bedroom I shared with my younger sister. To hear her tell the story, you’d think I was Seymour Krelborn  from the Little Shop of Horrors. It wasn’t that bad.  She exaggerates. She likes a good story as much as I do.

“Se non e  vero e ben trovato.”

(“Even if it is not true, it is a good story.”)

                                                        Italian Proverb

     At 1o, this boy is pretty interesting. What’s interesting about him, is his curiosity about the people and world around him, whether they relate directly to him and his life, or not.  He’s interested in things beyond his own desires and centric self, and that makes him interesting.

     I read somewhere it’s what we’re interested in that makes us interesting, and I think this is true. One of the many things I enjoy about nursing is the opportunity to hear other peoples’ stories about who they are, when they are not a patient. Frequently I am surprised by the accomplishments and talents of the people I meet. It’s the same curiosity that impels artists and writers to ask questions and observe the people and world around us, feeding our creativity.

     My father used tell me, in his Italian accent, “Sweetheart, never stop to devil-up (he meant develop, English was his second language) your mind. Stay cue-rious (curious).” It is good advice, and I hope I haven’t disappointed him as I’ve grown.  I don’t think I have.        

Happy Halloween!                                                                                                                       

Brain Cactus photo JParadisi

Brain Cactus photo JParadisi