A Nurse’s Sketch Book

 

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Nearly a year ago, I wrote a post about mindfulness and found time for creativity, in which I described how I used downtime spent in waiting rooms to draw, or more accurately, for advanced doodling.

The practice continues. This year, I purchased an inexpensive set of crayons, which I keep in a desk drawer. During my lunch break, I take a minute or two to add a splash of color to the ballpoint pen ink drawings. None took longer than 15 minutes to sketch, usually much less.

These rough sketches don’t take the place of painting in my studio, but, there’s a certain satisfaction that comes with adapting to challenges of managing time, learning to juggle purpose and passion. Nursing provides purpose rooted in service, and passion (or a reasonable facsimile of art) blossoms from its branches. Like spring flowers following a severe winter, it will not be denied.

 

Found Time for Creativity and Mindfulness: Make The Most of Waiting

Around the beginning of the year, I wrote about setting a timer for 15 minutes each day and during that time write or make something. Although the product of that commitment hasn’t been evident on this blog, I am honoring it, by continuing to write and illustrate posts for Off the Chartspaint, and an unusual way to use found time.

Part of my job as an oncology nurse navigator is meeting or checking in with patients during their course of treatment. These face to face meetings often occur before, during, or after one of their oncology appointments.

Cancer treatment involves doctor appointments, and doctor appointments involve waiting. As a ONN, I wait my turn to see the patient, although not usually in the  patient waiting room. Sometimes I’m in a MOB lobby. Often I’m invited in the back office area. If it’s a lengthy wait I go back to my office cubicle, and try to connect with the patient later.

But when the wait is about 15 minutes, sometimes I use the time drawing. Actually, it’s more like advanced doodling. Nothing fancy: I use the simple, lined notepad I bring to appointments, and a cheap, ball-point pen used to write notes. I select a random object. Flower arrangements and office plants are common subjects, but capturing enough details to visually describe a piece of medical equipment is a fun favorite. Rarely is a sketch completed before I’m called back to work.

Drawing without pressure to create product is a delightful form of mindfulness I’m fortunate to merge into my work day on occasion. The illustrations above are examples from my notebook.

The Stars of Our Lives

Mixed Media on Paper 2016 by Julianna Paradisi

The air temperature was below freezing, and because of all of the rain earlier in the week, the streets were frozen. Lots of car accidents were reported on the roads.

Because I walked to work I didn’t think too much about it, but as I progressed closer to the hospital the sidewalks, and particularly the asphalt streets became more slick with ice. I was wearing the wrong sort of boots and had to tread carefully to avoid slipping and falling.

Most interesting about the experience was that when I came to an intersection I waited to let the cars go first:

1. Because I had to walk gingerly, and slowly, and

2. Because the cars could slide too, and I didn’t want to be struck if they did.

Surprisingly, some drivers were annoyed when I refused to go first after they waved me on. One was so upset he shouted, “I was just trying to be polite to you!” from his vehicle as he passed. Intending to be thoughtful I had affronted him by not accepting his gesture of kindness, as though we were characters in an O. Henry story.

It made me think about how we are the stars of our own lives, and as such, often interpret the actions and motives of others through the lens of their effect on us. The driver didn’t understand I was being considerate too (and concerned for my safety). It didn’t occur to him that the road was as icy and slick for pedestrians as it was for those behind the wheel of a car.

I don’t know who originated it, but before reacting to someone’s words or actions it’s helpful to remember the meme, “People are not against you, they are for themselves.” I know I do it too, judge others’ actions by the effect they have on me. I hope I can become more mindful of doing it, and less self-focused.

 

Meditation on Luer Locks and Legos

It All Fits Together (2009) photo: JParadisi

It All Fits Together (2009) photo: JParadisi

     If I’d known I was going to be a nurse, I would have played with Legos more as a child.

     I say this to myself while snapping together the various plastic pieces needed to start an IV: valve cap, connector tubing, luer lock syringe. This tiny medical sculpture will connect to the angiocath once it is successfully introduced into my patient’s vein. On the other end, I connect the infusion tubing dangling from the bag of solution for the patient’s treatment.

     The pieces fit together in such a way to make needles unnecessary. The needless system is a safety measure  preventing staff from poking ourselves with contaminated needles.  On second thought, the system is more like those Habit Trail environments for hamsters, only it’s molecules of blood, medications, and normal saline running through the tubing, instead of a small, furry rodent.

     It’s easy to feel like a hamster running through its Habit Trail on days when the tasks that need to be accomplished are unending.  I remember this while I carefully connect the pieces I need to start an IV one by one, mindful of keeping the ends sterile. I imagine myself stringing beads. I think of a rosary or prayer beads as I make each connection. I focus my thoughts on the task at hand: placing an angiocath into the vein of my patient. I remember to breathe. I am ready to begin.