Monday, September 7, 2009

Back to School

St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center

Many of you probably already know, I’m back in school again. It’s my last semester of nursing school. I graduate in December. I have only eight more weeks of lecture and exams. Then I’ll be spending the last six weeks of the semester doing my preceptorship in the emergency department of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix.

St. Joseph’s was the first hospital in the Phoenix area. It was founded in 1895 by the Sisters of Mercy in their quest to help victims of tuberculosis. It began as a rented 6 bedroom house at Fourth and Polk and after the sisters raised enough money to build a real hospital, they broke ground for a 24 room hospital. Now, at Third and Thomas, it has 697 beds, is a level one trauma center and houses the Barrow’s Neurological Institute. St. Joseph’s has been listed in the “Top 100 Hospitals” category several times, more times than any other hospital in the Valley, by Thomson Reuters. It has also been named one of the “Best Places to Work” in the Valley by the Phoenix Business Journal six years running. I’m excited, proud, and very nervous about doing my preceptorship there. I hope I can live up.

So what does this have to do with art? Nothing really - unless you take into account that nursing is an art. It’s not a painting, or a sculpture, or a song, or dance. It’s not a play, or a poem, or a book. It is creative work, though. You acquire a basic set of skills in school. You learn to use the equipment. Then you must take that knowledge and use it in a way that works for your patient. It never works the same for every one and you must decide which tool, which word, which touch will be the one that let’s your patient, a virtual stranger, know you care and that you’re there – for them.

I’m here for you, too. I know you don’t depend on me like my patients do. This is a silly art blog, right? But, we all know art is not silly. It’s our blood. It’s what keeps us alive. It provides oxygen to our brains as much as any old piece of hemoglobin does, right? Well, not exactly, but that’s what it feels like and it’s important to us. It’s important to me. This blog is important to me, but I may not be able to provide all the content I would like to over the next couple of months. I’m going to be busy learning how to save people.

I’ll post as much as I can. I’ll paint as much as I can. Just know, it won’t be as much as I’d like.

Is there something that keeps you away from your art? How do you deal with it? Do you devote a specific time, or a specific day to your work? Do you feel having to find time to do your art, as opposed to having all the time in the world, is an advantage, or a disadvantage? Please, post your thoughts in the comments section so we can talk about it.


  1. This post really touched me, Kimber. My experience is in a way the inverse of yours.

    What has kept me away from my art the past two years is Cancer. Surgery, recovery, months of chemotherapy, more surgery, recovery, and another surgery coming up. It's all seriously cutting into my painting time! I haven't produced nearly the amount of work I was accustomed to because of physical limitations, pain, nerve damage and fatigue. I have found some workarounds, though, such as working in short bursts at the easel and working on small projects while I am resting. I was a very physical artist, used to working standing up, on very large pieces, so it has been a real challenge to come up with ways to produce larger works. I can't work in 9-hour stretches the way I used to, but by dividing my studio time in half-hour or hour-long sessions throughout the day, I can get a lot done.

    Art is always there in us, and the way we get it out, the format, is not as important as the idea. A sketch can have the same message or impact as a nine-foot canvas. So it's not really a matter of finding time. It's just a matter of finding the best way you are able to express yourself at the moment. If there are physical, mental, or lifestyle impediments, you adapt your technique to them. Whatever works. It's still art.

    But back to the reason I say my experience is the inverse of yours: It really has been nurses who have helped me get back into the studio and back to my life as an artist. Nurses helped me through all the dark parts in the hospital; they comforted, encouraged, and gave great advice on how to speed my recovery. Nurses rode with me in the ambulances. Nurses helped me at home and helped me be at home and independent, and they coordinated my treatments in different cities.

    Nurses made me laugh, became my friends, and told me how much my art has influenced their lives and their children's. Some had my paintings, some my books, most had been to my exhibits, some had been involved in my classes. All said I had made a difference in their lives.

    They in turn cared for me and about me. They used all the healing arts in their possession on me, and they had an enormous influence on me.

    It is as if we exchanged gifts.

  2. Mary, I'm sorry you're having to go through so much. It must be very hard. Reading your post really took me by surprise. When I asked what was keeping people from their art, I expected to hear stories about jobs and kids and instead I hear from an incredibly brave and hard working woman who's still painting! I can't believe you say you've slowed down, when I've always thought you were so prolific!

    I love what you said about getting the art out any way we can. That makes so much sense. It really doesn't matter how we do it, just that we do. I worked in my sketchbook today. Thank you for that. You inspired me.

    What you said about your nurses nearly made me cry. I'm glad you were able to build those wonderful relationships with each other. You're a very special person to be able to connect on such a level with people.

    Thank you for sharing your story. I hope you're feeling well and that your next surgery doesn't keep you away from your work and the world too long.

  3. After I wrote the comment, I thought it might have been a little heavy! Don't worry, I'm doing well and quite lifelike now.

    I know many doctors and nurses who are serious artists. How much art they produce is not an issue. It is how one discipline enhances the other. Your art will be changed by your nursing experiences, and your artistic sensibilities will flow through your nursing.

    You are going to be a great nurse, Kimber. And we should be seeing some good hospital stories from you, too! (The bunny story was hilarious...)

  4. Good, Mary! I was worried about you. I'm so glad you're lifelike. ;)

    I've wondered if my art will be changed, or not. I don't see how it couldn't be. It'll be interesting to see what happens.

    Thanks for the encouragement. I'm sure I'll have some stories, but they will all be from the Midwest, from unknown states and unknown hospitals about unknown patients of an unknown age and of either of two sexes with unknown ailments - HIPPA, you know. :)

    I'm so glad you're ok...