This post is written by a graduate in English literature turned nurse – Sashana Macatangay. She is enrolled in the Master’s in Nursing program at Azusa Pacific University. Sashana believes the act of writing helps with clarity of thought, sharpens critical thinking and observational skills, and last but not least, that the humanities should be incorporated into nursing curriculums. And why you may ask? This is Sashana’s story and explanation…
Florence Nightingale, the most celebrated pioneer of the nursing profession, once likened nursing to an art. From Nightingale’s perspective, nursing was, in fact, “the finest of the Fine Arts.” She makes a valid argument. In her analogy, Nightingale aptly compares the work of a nurse to that of a painter or sculptor. Both disciplines require exclusive devotion and hard preparation. Both also incorporate a strong human aspect. Because of this human aspect in nursing, it is important that nursing students exercise skills in the Humanities, particularly writing. Good writing skills in any discipline serve the purpose of promoting individuality, sharper critical thinking skills, and the formation of more articulate thought processes. In nursing, specifically, writing skills help to promote professionalism, credibility, and the dissemination of useful healthcare-based knowledge, which is valuable to hospitals, clinics, and care facilities everywhere.
I am contributing to this blog because I wish people to know why I believe writing is necessary in nursing education. I am well aware that the bulk of nursing students absolutely detests writing and do not share the same opinion as I do. Hopefully through this article, I will have provided a solid argument defending the importance of writing. However, before I expand more on why I believe writing is important to nursing, it should be noted that I might be a little biased due to my academic history. I graduated with a liberal arts degree—more specifically, an English degree. I made the decision to change my career path several years ago, and I am currently more than half-way finished with my second degree in nursing.
But let’s not lie. My initial attraction to the nursing career was a bit more superficial. During my years as an undergraduate student of UC Irvine’s School of Humanities, my goals were much different. I planned on pursuing a career as a music journalist. I dreamed of securing a position at Rolling Stone or Spin. I was determined to get there. However, the sad reality of the music journalism career made itself evident when I applied to a handful of alternative music magazines with no actual success. A long period of taking out odd jobs and engaging in continuous soul-searching prompted me to consider nursing as a way to financially stabilize myself and help provide for my family in the future. It wasn’t the most pure reason for wanting this career, but it’s the truth. I was a girl in her early 20s who loved music, art, and literary prose. I even manned my own radio program as a DJ at Orange County’s KUCI and was heavily involved with the non-profit organization for several years. In the past 5 years, I’m sure that no one would’ve ever guessed that the beats per minute I would be counting would be heart rates, and not the speed of a vinyl record.
However, before you judge me too much about my initial attraction to the stability of the nursing career, please note, that I grew to love it. Why do I love it? Well, while many uninformed people consider nursing to be a mere science, I consider it an art. True, I did graduate with a liberal arts degree, and to many people, this has absolutely nothing to do with nursing. I have a completely different perspective on the relevance of my degree. In my mind, these two different courses of study are similar. The English major analyzes texts from different perspectives in search of literary truths. In a similar vein, the nursing student analyzes data and different variables, from different angles, in search of medical truths in the form of comprehensive diagnoses. I appreciate the multidimensional nature of nursing, and I love the different approaches and interventions that can be taken to address any single problem. Everyday is a constant exercise of critical thinking and creativity.
And believe it or not, I do also love the writing and research aspect that is involved in nursing. Uncovering life-changing data and making a difference in the world through the spread of knowledge and ideas is a very rewarding process that I would like to one day take a part of. For this reason, I’ve always believed that writing is one of the most important aspects of the nursing profession. In fact, according to Provision 7.3 in the Nurse’s Code of Ethics, “…nursing knowledge is derived from the sciences and from the humanities. Ongoing scholarly activities are essential to fulfilling a profession’s obligations to society” (“Code of Ethics,” 2001).
Writing is one of the most important scholarly activities that a nurse can engage in. Eloquence and proficient writing skills in nursing practice indicate competence, expertise, and wisdom in clinical practice. These skills can draw attention not only to the nurse’s expansive and specialized medical lexicon, but also to their extensive knowledge of relevant healthcare-related issues (which proves to be highly beneficial in patient-centered care).
Effective communication skills lend more credibility to the nurse, enabling the nurse to be a more effective and trusted patient advocate. As a result, the nurse may also use her unique writing style to expand and diversify the pre-existing body of healthcare-based knowledge that is used internationally in promoting more effective patient care.
Writing promotes a nursing culture of professionalism and aids in the spread of knowledge and ideas among patients and nurses alike. But if this reason alone is not enough to demonstrate its importance, we must also consider the scarcity of creative assignments in nursing education, which can be all too systematic and structured.
Nursing students rarely get the opportunity to express themselves as individuals. They are mandated to learn the same skills, and they must exercise these skills under a strict protocol. Their form of self-expression is often limited to a mechanical regurgitation of knowledge and hard, scientific facts. Creative processes such as writing promote individuality, critical thinking, and innovation. As nurses, we must exercise writing in order to establish what Theresa S. Drought in The Guide to the Code of Ethics for Nurses describes as “…new ways of understanding disease, health, the human response to illness, and innovations in nursing care” (Drought, 2008, p. 95). Writing is essential for stimulating self-expression, originality, and innovation in a profession that thrives on advanced practice research, evidence based practice, and scholarly inquiry.
Proper writing skills and the exercise of creative thought is paramount to the success of any professional within the healthcare industry. Nursing is certainly not exempt from this. Nursing curriculums often have a heavy emphasis on clinical skills and science-based knowledge. However, what many people fail to realize is that nursing is both a science and an art. Incorporating more writing into nursing education is beneficial because nurses who are strong writers are also strong communicators. Consequently, they are also more vocal patient advocates. As healthcare professionals, we must be aware that the exercise of sharing ideas and contributing interdisciplinary knowledge is a collaborative process that we all should participate in.
If you wish to connect with Sashana, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.