The StN Project

Nursing: Art or Science?

As part of my attempt to fundraise I have learnt to make Jam; a very scientific process, with exact quantities of ingredients, essential equipment and a rigid set of instructions.  So, if you follow these what should result is perfect jam each time.  But that isn’t the case.  Each batch of jam is different; each lovingly prepared pan needs some judgement, perhaps a few minutes extra cooking, slightly longer to set or a little more sugar.  You don’t leave jam to just get on with it.  You lovingly tend to it, watching all the time for tell-tale signs of success or failure, jumping in when you think things are going wrong, trying things that have worked before to save it and if that doesn’t work following your gut to try something new. So, as I stirred the pan of my latest batch of jam (rhubarb and gin jam if you’re interested!)  I pondered if in fact Jam making was more art than science.  I then thought about how similar making jam was to being a student nurse… 

Being a nursing student means that, hopefully, in just over a year I will come out with a Bachelor of Science degree. But is the course that I am taking truly one of science?  The scientific elements are easy to identify the nursing process, evidence-based practice, diagnostic tools, the operation of complex equipment, drug calculations and medication management and, for some nurses, medical interventions and operations all set alongside processes, policies and robust documentation.   We learn all of this, we are tested on it, we see nurses who demonstrate these skills daily with efficiency, juggling a wide range of tasks and to do lists that would make most people weep.  We wonder at how they have learnt to do these tasks as if they are second nature and we contemplate whether we will ever master the tasks that to them appear so easy.  But slowly and surely what was once new and clumsy becomes easier and we start to see the progress we are making when drug names become familiar or we find ourselves understanding a discussion in MDT without needing translation Slowly, we start to see that one day we too may master this science of nursing.   

But what of the art – do we see this?  Is this so clear?  For me art implies individualism, interpretation, the use of language and of pictures – literal and figurative.  It evokes emotion and passion and is what separates us as humans from other species.  It encapsulates spirituality, beliefs, relationships, joy and grief, loss and hope.  It is harder to write down and even harder to teach. The art of nursing to me is unique and individual, to every nurse and is different with every patient or family member. It is what I look at in awe in some of the nurses and fellow students I have had the privilege to meet in the past two years.  For me it is the care we take, the instinct we develop and the reason we are. I may be being taught the science of nursing but I am learning the art.  It is the art of nursing that is where my passion lies, it is the art of nursing that means we can never be replaced by robots, it is the art of nursing that binds us together as a profession and it is the art of nursing that makes our role amongst health professionals unique.  

Much like jam making, as nurses we learn and understand the science and then we develop our art to give the best that we can. So, for me, I will graduate with a Bachelor of Science and I will then use this science to practice the art of nursing.  


Written by Clare Manley (@MannersofMarple) 


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