Nursing is an art: and if it is to be made an art,
it requires an exclusive devotion as hard a preparation,
as any painter’s or sculptor’s work;
for what is the having to do with dead canvas or dead marble,
compared with having to do with the living body,
the temple of God’s spirit?
It is one of the Fine Arts:
I had almost said, the finest of Fine Arts.
My mother and aunt received fine arts degrees back when few women thought of going to college. Not being competitive by nature, when my turn came, I went to nursing school instead. Imagine my surprise when the first classroom I entered had a sign on the door that read, “Nursing Arts Lab.”
The first thing I learned was that Florence Nightingale’s word was almost sacred so, if she said nursing is an art, then nursing is an art. I had to rethink my idea of art. I’d always thought of it by its traits—creative, innovative, excellent craftsmanship, personally expressive . . . . I usually ascribed it to visual arts, performance arts and writing. How does nursing fit into that?
Forty-five years and a subsequent art degree later, I still haven’t answered that question to my satisfaction. Although nursing is heavily based upon science (microbiology, anatomy, physiology, chemistry, etc.), it doesn’t strike me as being a science so the closest I can come is to think of nursing as a performance art.
Here is another thought which might sound heretical to some. For me, nursing and art are both trades. I studied information and practiced skills to learn these trades. I’ve strived to meet high standards in these trades. I’ve kept a roof over my head and food on my table earning a living plying these trades. At times I’ve even been able to show the traits I listed above, but mostly, I’ve enjoyed my work and it has enriched my life no matter what I called it.
I love your post! I feel that nursing is definitely both an art and a science. As a nurse , I feel I need to be the best I can be to serve my patients. That means keeping myself updated on the essential information so when I walk in the room the patient can benefit from a prepared provider. But all the knowledge and technical skills in the world is not enough. To truly make a difference to our patients, we need to listen with our hearts..I like Marilyn’s description of “heads,hands and hearts” ; that says it all.
I have posted a story about what nursing means to me ,titled “Sacred Ground” in Cafe Stories at http://www.namw.org if you are interested.
Thanks for your thoughts
Marilyn Buster said:
If you leave out the “Art” in Nursing…or Medicine… then you ONLY have the science to lean on. The “Art” to me is the ability to see beyond the science and see the patient and their many variables as human beings and how that effects their wellness or illness. Without the “Art” so much and so many issues get missed. Marianne, your sister has that gift of “Art”. Not all nurses or doctors have it.
When I was in Nurses Training in KC we wore caps with three points. They stood for Head, Hands, and Heart. The science, craft and “Art” of nursing. So Katherine, you are right, nursing is science and craft but the “Art” comes from the heart.
I love your writings. What shall I refer to them as? Excellent writer.
I am the person that FINALLY put together the afghan. They seemed to enjoy seeing their work all pieced together looking like an afghan. One member (only 9 of us) was estatic with the fact – how did I do it!!! She understood the problem and the results. She brought her camera and took tons and tons of photos. I am looking at it as growth to me – learning curve. I learned so much through that experiece and I also met you, who is a treasure to behold. You have been wonderful. Thanks. Joan in MI
I agree with your last paragraph.
I also believe there is a fine art to good nursing.
I know a few nurses and sadly they go about their job in a dry, bored manner, not at all Fine Art.
My beloved sister, although not an RN, is one of the finest examples of living that Fine Art of Nursing. She’s actually the one the other RNs go to for answers and advice.