New Year Resolution: Don’t Wait Until Late in the Afternoon

It was late in the afternoon when my patient arrived at the oncology clinic. The treatment

Kaboom (ceramic) by jparadisi

Kaboom (ceramic) by jparadisi

prescribed required more hours than we were open. The oncologist prioritized his treatment for that afternoon and scheduled a second appointment for the next morning to complete it. The only problem with this plan was my patient didn’t realize he needed two appointments until I told him. His eyes expressed disappointment, but it was an expletive that escaped his mouth. He immediately apologized. “I’m sorry; it’s just that I don’t have that kind of time anymore.”

I understood exactly what he meant.

It was on a New Year’s Eve when I discovered a lump in my breast. At that time, I was a pediatric intensive care nurse working 12-hour shifts and a single mother. Life as I knew it came to a grinding halt. Once chemotherapy started, my oncologist prescribed light duty.  No longer a bedside nurse, I worked on office projects for the PICU manager instead.

My oncologist was hopeful. Still, I remember hearing her say there was a 32 percent chance I would die in 10 years. I was afraid. However, as a PICU nurse, I knew life could be short. This knowledge helped me gain perspective on my predicament. I’d had a good life. If this were it, how would I spend the next 10 years?

Since childhood, I wanted to be an artist. At 15, I announced my plan at the dinner table. In his thick Italian accent, my father said, “Sweetheart, you are talented and can be whatever you want, but get a job first. You will gain life experience, and then you will have something to make art about.”

Eventually, I became a nurse.

I thought about this while my chemo-bald head perched like a cue ball on the armrest of the sofa, eyes staring at the ceiling. I still wanted to be an artist. If this was the last decade of my life, I would spend it making art. I needed to start right away, because I may not have that kind of time anymore.

After recovery, I enrolled in art school and then transitioned into adult oncology nursing. In 2009, I completed a certification in fine arts and became certified in oncology nursing.

Today I am an artist and an oncology nurse. Cultivating creativity not only adds joy and accomplishment to my personal life, but it also flows into patient care. I believe it sustains my love for nursing after 26 years of practice.

Are you setting aside your creativity until late in the afternoon of your life?

Are you waiting for retirement or for the kids to leave home?

What if you discovered you don’t have that kind of time anymore?

What would you change?


Nursing Process & Process Art

This butterfly photo has nothing to do with this post. I just like it. photo: J.Paradisi

This butterfly photo has nothing to do with this post. I just like it. photo: J.Paradisi

      I have an adulterous relationship with the word “process” and I am unashamed.

       The word process has several meanings, but I only cheat with two of its definitions.

     The first definition (according to Encarta) is a “series of actions: a series of actions directed towards a specific goal. ” This is the definition I am faithful to when nursing is my focus. I use nursing process and evidence based care in the clinical setting. While there’s room for the occasional “reasonable man” approach, most of the time the answers I need for safe and effective patient care are found in nursing policies and procedures. This issue comes up from time to time when someone wants to try something new (usually after reading an obscure study in “the literature”), before the treatment has been evaluated by the policy and procedure committee and approved.

      I know, I know, some times it feels like there’s too many rules getting in the way of what feels like good patient care. But the longer I practice nursing, the more I value  evidence based practice as a structure to build sound clinical skills upon, much like an armature for a sculpture. It ensures patients get consistent and proven treatment.  Occasionally, I have heard of nurses “cutting corners” during busy or emergent situations that can lead to more harm than good, like giving a medication that one is unfamiliar with incorrectly, instead of reading the drug information or calling the pharmacist for advice. Performing a procedure without familiarity with the hospital policy, is another example.  I know, I know, our nurse work loads are heavier by the minute, and we are busy. Taking the extra time to look up a procedure or a drug indication slows us down, but offers our patients an extra measure of safety. Becoming an Oncology Certified Nurse (OCN) this year was driven by my belief in evidence based practice, patient safety, and applying both to my clinical practice.

     When my focus is art, I give another shout out to Encarta for the second definition of process, “series of natural occurrences: a series of natural occurrences that produce change or development.” I am a process painter. Unlike a nurse working to achieve a specific patient outcome, process painters may or may not have an idea of a finished image in their heads. It’s pretty vague. A surface and medium are chosen, and the artist begins to make marks, scraping and adding until an image emerges. There’s freedom in art to let an image declare itself, without putting a lot of rules or limitations on it. It’s a lovely foil to my need as a nurse to follow procedure.

     In either vocation, nursing or artist, creative use of resources is a valuable skill, but I’ll reserve my artful risk-taking for the studio.