Art of Nursing

When I got out of nursing school, like many, I felt pretty prepared. I knew I still had a lot to learn, but with my drug book in hand and a few other little pocket books, I was ready to go. I read up on things, learned about new drugs, tackled ACLS and overcame my fears one day at a time. But, what I was grossly unprepared for was the art of nursing. Sure, school taught me how to calculate medications, do assessments and manage diseases – all the science stuff. But what it didn’t prepare me for was the sadness I would encounter, the deaths I would see and toll this would take on me. I hadn’t tapped into the art of nursing while I was conquering the science of nursing.

This is not uncommon for new nurses. They are so stressed and worried about performance on the job, they forget how to be fulfilled with their jobs. And sadly, they are not taught self-care in school. It is with this perspective, that I often find myself talking more with my students about the art versus the science of nursing. In clinicals, we are suppose to practice the science they are learning in school – medications, assessments skills, disease management and recognitions. However, what I have found is we don’t foster the art of nursing – the caring and compassion that likely drew us to this awesome profession in the first place.

As a nurse, especially in the ICU, the science part of nursing is heavy. Lots to learn and master – lives in your hands. This makes balancing the art and science very challenging. However, it has to be balanced. A few years back, I could feel the burn out creeping in. I was working in a very busy MICU at a large teaching hospital. For all intensive purposes, I had mastered my job – especially the science part. There were not to many patients I was uncomfortable taking as an assignment and I had become one of the go to people on the unit. But, why was I so unhappy? Bored? Frustrated? I started to notice I didn’t connect as much with my patients and their families – my bank account for pouring out to people had run dry. I started to realize that I had poured so much into my career, but not so much into myself and the art of nursing was lost in the process. I think a lot of it was defensive protections. When you see so much sadness and suffering, yet have to function in a highly skilled environment, something has to give. For me, it was my passion for my job and the art of nursing that originally drew me to nursing in the first place.

So, like with my students, we as nurses often have to take the time to re-vitalize, re-evaluate and re-juvinate ourselves and our careers. We need to take time to remember the part of nursing we were originally draw to – caring for people in need – the art of nursing.

In this crazy changing world of healthcare, we as nurses need to find ways to care for ourselves. We can’t pour out to others if we are empty. In the land of patient satisfaction, unhappy, dry nurses are not going to cut it and hospitals are quickly starting to realize this. In remembering the art of nursing, we support our nurses physically and emotionally. We give them the time to demonstrate caring attitudes and the resources to make it happen. No institution will have high patient satisfaction scores with an imbalance of the art and science of nursing.

So, are you out of balance? Find yourself struggling to get through your shifts? I want to offer you a way to re-charge and give yourself a gift and a way to rediscover the art of nursing. This year during Nurses Week, the Art of Nursing 2.0 – Navigating the Shift in Healthcare (Click here to view more details) will be offering some solutions. This week long experience, will be all about you – the nurse! This is a great way to bulk up on continuing education while doing something for yourself. You may also be able to use your continuing education or tuition money to apply for your registration. Hey – maybe your hospital would like to give this gift to your whole nursing staff? Wouldn’t that be awesome and much more useful than another travel mug!

Remember, we have to care for ourselves to care for others. Also, remembering the art of nursing is just as important as the science!

Take care, be safe & wash your hands!

This post was written as part of the Nurse Blog Carnival. More posts on this topic can be found at Find out how to participate.

Comments (13)

  1. Pingback: Celebrate Nursing: Bridge the Gap between the Art and Science with Nurse Bloggers | Elizabeth Scala, Reiki Nurse | Nurse Consultant | Speaker & Facilitator

  2. Reply

    I love how you point out that we receive all of the skills and science in nursing school. We graduate and feel prepared to work as nurse professionals in our nursing careers. And then we get to our nursing jobs and may fail to balance the art with the science of nursing. Thank you for the encouragement for nurses and nursing students alike to re-vitalize, re-evaluate and rejuvenate our careers.

    I so appreciate your support; thank you for contributing to this blog carnival!

    • Joan RN


      Thanks you so much for your kind words and especially for making me mindful of my work!!

  3. Reply

    Thanks for your post that helps me remember how important the science is to new nurses and students. It is emphasized in nursing school and I understand that. I remember how proud I was to have my own drug book and how committed to using it in the course of medication administration and patient education. And yet as you explain, we must also take care of ourselves. I think sometimes it is the science that puts us in this place of privileged work, and the art that brings meaningfulness to our patients and ourselves. I’m so glad you bring this ideal forward in your teaching and writing. It is so critical!

    • Joan RN


      Thanks so much for your kind words! I love what you said, “it is the science that puts us in this place of privileged work, & the art that brings meaningfulness to our patients and ourselves.” WOW – that is some good, powerful stuff! Thanks for sharing!!

  4. Reply

    Great job, thanks for offering this fine piece. I have come to think of self-care as essential maintenance. A nurse is far more than a fine-tune machine, of course, but I like the metaphor of a lawnmower. Nurses like to pretend they can always do more, handle anything. It’s nonsense that causes tremendous harm. A lawnmower can seem like that: it runs well, blades are sharp, it dies great work easily & efficiently. The changes come so easily they’re easy to miss, but the blades dull, the motor gets harder to start, each job takes that much longer, the results that much rougher. Soon enough it dies. OR someone sharpens the blades, changes the oil, whatever it takes. People, too, fall apart slowly for poor maintenence, and the price is high. OR not, if we take care of ourselves. It’s a basic responsibility to our patients : that we keep ourselves fit, alert, healthy, happy so we can do our best.

  5. Reply

    As nurses we often neglect ourselves as a service to others. Rejuvenation is not a normal part of our conversations. However, neglecting ourselves is not only a disservice to ourselves, but to the healthcare consumers who depend on our vitality and inner strength to provide superb healthcare.

    I couldn’t help but chuckle when I read your statement about participation in The Art of Nursing 2.0 Virtual CEU Conference during Nurse’s Week 2015. Seriously, who needs another mug??! I wish when I worked for a hospital they would have offered an educational series to focus on rejuvenating my inner spirit and perspective on life and my profession. That’s a true gift!

    • Joan RN


      We are not “taught” to care for ourselves – such a foreign thought – yet, so important! We can’t care for others if we don’t care for ourselves.

      Can’t wait to see what the hospital is giving out this year as their “appreciation” – last year my husband got a pair of socks! Seriously! If that doesn’t make a statement from administration…

      Thanks for stopping by & being a part of the conversation!

  6. Reply

    It is all about the patients! Thank you for the post. I hope to be reenergized this nurses week so that I can focus on my call to nursing, patient care.


  7. Reply

    You’re so right, nursing school doesn’t prepare you for nursing in the real world. And even if someone had told me there would be burnout, I may not have understood what they meant. Thanks for an insightful post on self-care.

    • Joan RN


      Glad I am not the only one who felt that way! LOL And so true – burnout was such a foreign concept and thought is “certainly wouldn’t happen to me!” Thanks for your kind words!

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