In or Out of the Box

Before I was a nurse, I was a musician. I loved both the muscle memory, physics, and technical side or playing the clarinet as well as the artistic and emotive side. I was only ok on the first part, but I’d like to think I was pretty decent at the second. A college professor once told me, after playing a Brahms piece, that he thought I was too young to have broken my heart. It was a compliment from him, I promise. 

Nursing students often hear the phrase “the art of nursing.” They build up nursing as this all-mighty force combining science and art. No. They’re really pointing towards compassion and empathy. The science of nursing is the technical stuff we do, knowing the meds, physical acts to take care of the patient, analysis of their signs and symptoms. The art of nursing is the compassionate care of the patient. Really? Society is so low that we call it an art to treat another human being with common decency? Talk about lowering standards, humanity. But it’s not an art form. It’s the simple act of doing what’s best for another, instead of what’s best for me. (Hospital administrators, take note: it’s not all about the Benjamins.) So with all this talk about the art of nursing, I was excited in nursing school. I thought I’d found my dream job of combining two things I loved. Boy was I wrong. 

There is no creative thought in nursing. There’s tons of analytical thought. Is this the right med for this patient at the right time? How do I best support this patient’s shoulder with a torn ligament while we ambulate today? That gurgling noise while they sleep is new, how do I fix it? This patient’s pH was 7.1 and a lactic of 6, what’s next? Their urine has slowed down the past two hours, what could be wrong?

There are no creative answers to those questions. There is no creative, outside-of-the box thinking that goes along with it. There is established research, there are protocols, there are order sets that give us the answers to those questions. I rely on knowledge banks in my own and colleagues’ memories to find the answer. I rely on the internet. (Don’t judge me. I googled a particular splint style yesterday which I’d never heard of. That is not condoning your use of google to diagnose your cold as HIV. Wrong virus.)

I have no creative outlet as a nurse. Especially in the ER and ICU. I’ve seen it in a few places like rehab nursing or sometimes surgical nursing. (Yeah! Surgery! How to fit a round peg in a square hole that is your patient’s abdomen. And every abdomen is different, so the next solution will be as well. Surgical nurses and scrub techs are HIGHLY undervalued in the healthcare world. They rock.) But the lack of creativity and the lowsy staffing of experienced nurses means I do tasks. And some days that’s all I can think about: Which task is the most important and gets priority over the others? More analytical thinking. No creative thinking. 

This is taking its toll on me. The blog helps me think through and vent at times, but it’s not an outlet of any real means. There’s no interaction with anyone, there’s no give and take. Thoughts and advice are welcome.

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