Reflection · The StN Project

Compassion and creativity – the art of nursing

Throughout my life, compassion and creativity have formed the foundations of who I am and who I strive to be. Whilst I recognise I may be a jumble of many other things too, these, for me are the most important and the elements of myself that have (I believe) led me to nursing. 

I grew up with somewhat alternative parents – as a family we grew our own food, kept ex-battery hens, made music and had a house full of musical instruments and junk that my dad would pick up (much to the despair of my mum). He would create haunted houses and castles for us out of cardboard and we would make homemade cards for our teachers at Christmas; my brothers and I would bake and sew with my mum and tag along to the music classes my dad ran for children and during the school holidays we would go on puppet making or Native American instrument workshops. I went to an equally alternative Primary school, where my head teacher (who was in a band with my dad) played guitar in assembly and we would all happily sing along to The Beatles or perform interpretive dances with lots of wavy arms. My mum worked every job imaginable to keep our family afloat but was always drawn back to caring roles – after having left school with next to no qualifications, she went on to study a degree in psychology and sociology before completing her MA in Social Work (all whilst she had 3 children, under 14!) So, you see that beautiful mix of creative and compassionate energy was always a part of my existence. I’m pretty lucky to have inherited my Dad’s musical and artistic sensibilities, along with my Mum’s endless kindness. 

During my studies I have always flitted between the arts and health and social sciences and at various points it has caused me some conflict: convinced the two are separate and that I have to ‘pick a side’. What I have learned over the years is that nursing and art are inextricably linked and that each can supplement and support the other, in both our professional and personal lives. 

When I began my PGDip, we had to participate in a debate about whether nursing is an art or a science (based on Carpers’ seminal ‘Fundamental ways of knowing’, 1978). It is an interesting debate, because of course, much of the knowledge we need as qualified nurses is firmly rooted in science and empirical evidence. However, there is undeniably an art to the delivery, and I often get consumed thinking about how much of the beauty of nursing is in the subtlety of it (this subtlety is one of the reasons that the skill and expertise of nursing is often overlooked – but that’s another discussion!). If I assist a patient, who has just arrived to the ward, to the toilet (a seemingly simple and fundamental nursing task) I need the knowledge and evidence to adequately assess that persons’ ability to transfer or mobilise, I need to understand their level of cognition, their continence needs, their means of communication, their level of dependence etc. – for me these exemplify the science of nursing. However, the way that I deliver this: with confidence and kindness; organisation, respect and normalcy; maintaining dignity as best I can – this is the art, this is what will make an arguably humiliating experience, feel less embarrassing and leave the patient feeling cared for and respected not shamed and awkward. All of a sudden, a seemingly simple task becomes decidedly less so. For me, this is exactly what nursing is: it’s an amalgamation of the science we undeniably need to provide safe and effective, high quality, evidence-based nursing; and the art we use in our delivery of nursing care, providing it in our own unique and authentic ways. 

Creative outlets are integral to my survival: whether it be philosophising about the meaning of life, the self or ways of seeing; crocheting; dancing to LCD Soundsystem or Kate Bush, like nobodies watching; drawing my coffee cup; or planting seeds – having a means of expressing myself, relieving the pain of a difficult shift or letting my imagination run wild is such an important part of my self-care. To my mind, creativity doesn’t look the same for everyone and whilst for some it will be oil painting or playing the ukulele for others it might be a thoughtful walk, looking for shells on the beach, rearranging your furniture, choosing flowers or dancing without rhythm in your kitchen. Creativity comes in all different forms, but it often provides the same feelings of freedom, release and expression. I would urge anyone, particularly those in nursing and healthcare, to explore your creativity, your art, in a way that makes sense and provides comfort to you. 


Written by Rosie Schofield (@SchofieldRosie) 

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