Insight is the unanticipated gift of creativity. It struck like lightning during a shift in the oncology infusion clinic.
A colleague asked, "Where does IV iron come from?" I've infused the stuff into patients for years, but never wondered how the iron was obtained. From iron ore? By soaking rusty nails in water? I doubted from blood products, as it's often prescribed for bloodless surgery patients. What impressed me, however, was the curiosity stimulating her question in the first place. She demonstrated thinking outside of the box, and beyond a task-driven mentality. Curiosity prevented her from mindlessly hooking an IV drip to a patient. She sought understanding.
That's when insight struck: curiosity is the foundation of creativity.
The questions "What, how, and why?" gave birth to science and art. They inspired Leonardo da Vinci to dream of contraptions which later became the basis of modern aviation. Artists ask themselves these questions standing before a blank canvas, a lump of clay, or the ingredients for tonight's dinner.
My father, sitting at the head of our dinner table, said many times to me, in his Italian accent (English was his second language), "Sweetheart, never stop devil-upping your coo-ree-os-ity." I understood he meant: "Never stop developing your curiosity." It remains excellent advice.
Curiosity compels you to create individualized methods for patients to organize and remember their home meds. Curiosity fuels your medication information search and the creativity involved in formatting it for a variety of backgrounds: patients, their families, students, or coworkers. You create a presentation that works best for the occasion: handouts, graphs, pie charts, or PowerPoint.
Imagining what losing your hair feels like, you help a chemo patient collect pictures from magazines of hairstyles -- short, medium, and long -- so she can visualize her new hair when it grows back. Maybe she'll try a vivid new color, too.
Wondering how to entice a patient to eat more, you explore recipes for textures and flavors of food that will appeal to him.
Why is the easiest question of all to answer: "Because I care."
Nurses are creative in ways we care for patients. We don't simply "push a button." Neither do we ever stop developing our curiosity. This is the art of nursing.
By the way, the iron in IV solution is man-made.