I usually have one, two or more nurses-usually retired, working nurses don’t have time for writing–in my classes. I’ve heard for years about the crying closet–usually a supply closet a nurse can go into to grieve privately when she/he loses a patient. I’ve heard the story of a child dying in a young nurse’s arms, and how, as a mature woman, the nurse is still carrying the grief of the death with her. I’ve known a student nurse who had severe stress after working on an oncology floor, but who had no way to process that stress. We talk about caring for the caregiver, but when are we going to do something about it?
Yesterday, a working nurse told of how she cared for both her dying parents while a myriad of other disasters befell her. She had always, she reported, been known for her skills. But when she asked her superior to give her some leniency, as she was grieving, she was told that she didn’t have the “luxury” to grieve, and to get back to being the high-functioning performer she had been.
Another retired psychiatric nurse, told of being put in an ICU unit. Overwhelmed by being in a position she wasn’t trained for, she was later scolded for not–I repeat, not–letting a patient (who was an addict) bleed out.
Both nurses were taken to task for spending too much time with patients.
Hospitals today are under tremendous financial stress which translates into worker stress. The question is–can overburdened caregivers give quality care to patients?
Arts experiences are one way hospitals can address the stress of caregiving. Art at the bedside–writing, art, music, even dance, relieves the burden of care for nurses. And weekly arts sessions held for nurses provide a way for them to help heal themselves, bring themselves into balance, and create more compassion for themselves, their patients, and each other.
One of the best sites to read about arts in healthcare is Marti Hand’s site:http://creativityinhealthcare.com. A nurse and painter herself, she has done extensive research on how creativity heals. In her latest post, she quotes David Bohm, “Creativity is fundamental to human experience. ” We need to bring more humanity back into the healthcare environment, and arts interventions can be an important part of that effort.
Someday, there may not be a need for a crying closet.