New Post: The Art of Nursing

May is all warm and fuzzy with Nurse’s Week. May renews love for what my mentor once dubbed “The noblest of professions.” May also marks the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing. I am a fan of Nightingale, her work, her integrity, and her devotion to nursing’s science.


The Art of Nursing by jparadisi

The Art of Nursing by jparadisi

So, please, don’t misunderstand when I say there is a quote by Nightingale from 1868 in which I find the tiniest flaw:

 Nursing is an art; and if it is to be made an art, requires as exclusive a devotion, as hard a preparation, as any painter’s or sculptor’s work; for what is the having to do with dead canvas or cold marble compared with having to do with the living body, the temple of God’s Spirit? Nursing is one of the fine arts; I had almost said, the finest of the fine arts.”

The troublesome part for me is describing “canvas or cold marble” as “dead.” As an artist, I tell you that there is no such thing as a dead canvas or sculptor’s stone. Yes, both are inanimate objects — no disagreement there. But anyone putting brush to canvas or chisel to stone knows that an interaction occurs between the artist and the medium. Writers know that a blank page stares back in judgmental and deafening silence. Art is a result of the interaction between the medium and the artist. As an art student, I once told an instructor, “I just want what I paint to look like what I see in my head.” Sympathetically, she replied, “That’s what all artists want. It never happens.”

Michelangelo said it best:

“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”

The personality of a canvas, stone, or blank page is manifested by its grain (tooth), flaws, and innate characteristics. Artists do not simply impose their will on canvas or stone. Art is the interaction between the artist and the medium.

So what does any of this have to do with nursing?

The art of nursing lies within a broader spectrum of skills than IV starts, and medication administration. It requires a nurse to discover the unique characteristics of each patient asking for help. Nurses chisel away at fear, pain, and grief to reveal a patient’s inner strengths and natural resiliency. We hold up a mirror, so our patients can see the beauty of the human spirit that we uncover.

Like canvas or stone, some patients are resistant to brush or chisel. Through devotion to our craft, we adapt our nursing skills to the realities of their character. Artists and nurses know a vision cannot be impressed upon a unreceptive surface, so we do what we can, knowing the result may fall short of our vision.

The nurse’s art, much like that of an artist or sculptor, utilizes the naturally occurring strengths and flaws in patients to create beauty from potential. The art exists within this interaction.

Happy Nurses Week!

This Week: EHRs & The Nurse’s Voice, Collusion & A Nurse Asks for Help

A physician, standing in a busy hospital unit, was overheard telling a resident,

“If you want to be certain something gets done for your patient, find the busiest nurse in the unit, and ask her to do it.”

It’s true, nurses thrive on getting the job done.

Here at JParadisiRN blog, things are hopping. Besides transitioning to a new employment opportunity, I’ve been busy writing, and making art.

In case you missed it, Do EHRs Rob Nurses of Voice and Oversimplify Descriptions of Patient Care? is the title of my latest post for Off the Charts, the blog of the American Journal of Nursing. While I mostly love EHRs, the voice of bedside nursing is lost by reducing the nurse’s note to check boxes and smart phrases. However, not everyone agrees. What’s your opinion? BTW, the I made the collage illustrating the post; the text is from Florence Nightingale’s Nursing Notes.

Weekly, I write and illustrate a post for TheONC, The Oncology Nurse Community website. This week’s post, Which Came First, The Chicken or the Nurse? ponders the lack of privacy and personal space for nurses.

Chapter 13 of The Adventures of Nurse Niki is posted. In  Collusion, Niki’s creative solution for managing her patient’s under medicated post-surgical pain last week yields an unexpected result, in which she coaches a father how to ask his daughter’s surgeon to treat her pain. How do you handle similar situations?

I receive comments from nurses, some asking questions. A recent comment submitted to an older post, Of Medication Errors and Brain Farts is a single line,

I made a med error and lost my job how do you go on

If the comment touches you, please reach out with support and advice for this nurse in replies to this comment. Let’s help out a fellow nurse, yes?

The Season of Lights





photo by: JParadisi 2009

          The other day I wondered if my blog posts are depressing this time of year when people are celebrating the holidays. Who wants to hear about medication errors and cancer when there are family gatherings and parties to attend? My concern was validated when I read oncology nurse Teresa Brown’s blog. She told a story about shaving the head of a cancer patient losing her hair from chemotherapy. In response, one commenter posted that she will no longer read Teresa’s blog because it’s too depressing.    
     Yep, that’s what I was afraid of.        

     While I understand reading about hospitalized people can feel sad, to stop there is missing the point. I believe nurses write stories about encounters with their patients because of the universal truths of humanity they relate. Whether poignant or humorous, the stories shine a light on the characteristics that connect us all as part of the human race.       

      This is the season of lights.       

     Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, walked the hallways of an army hospital during the Crimean war, shining the light of her lamp on wounded soldiers while making her rounds. To her patients, she was known as The Lady with the Lamp.       

     Nurses, at our best, bring light to patients, by listening to their stories while delivering expert care. Treatment, especially cancer treatment, can feel like a season of darkness one must travel through to find the light at the end. Some patients will never leave the dark season of a chronic illness, and for them, nurses are there to hold the small lamps of hope needed to guide them along their journey.       

     This is the season of lights. During the darkest time of year, our society strings lights from our homes and businesses. We string lights around the trees outdoors, and those we bring into our homes. We light the Menorah during the Festival of Lights. We light our way through the season of darkness, and remind ourselves that nature’s light will return.       

     Nurses tell the stories that guide us through long shifts with fearful patients. The stories bring us back for the next shift and the next, until a string of these stories lights our careers, and our lives, until each of one of us finds our unique purpose in the darkness.       

     This is the season of lights.