There needs to be some way of adding creativity to the standard nursing curriculum. Evidence-based practice, rubrics, exams, and case studies abound in nursing school at all levels, and sometimes the process becomes the point, and the end becomes obscured. I believe that creative thinking should (must!) be encouraged in Registered Nurses both before and after graduation.

Creativity can be not only practice-expanding, it can also be fun. It’s easy to be too earnest and too serious about what we do. Inserting creativity into the structure of the classroom may not be easy, however. I would dread being given an assignment that “required” me to “be creative,” because my preferred style and type of creativity may not be yours. I would fear being judged on how I approached the assignment, and would try to make sure what I produced matched the rubric of the assignment – self-defeating, eh?

I use humour to communicate, and I find that humour is often lacking in my fellow nurses and nursing instructors. I once gave a group of nursing students I was precepting on a med-surg unit an assignment – they were each to write a limerick over the weekend that focused on any important lesson they  learned the previous week.

You’d be surprised at how many things you can rhyme with “bedpan.”

I get the, “But I’m not a creative person!” from some of my students, and I have to tell these folks that learning to be creative is a real thing. For some it comes naturally, others have to work at it, but everyone can do it.

Part of the secret is to find an avenue of creativity that you enjoy. I have one friend who sews stuffed toys. They are whimsical, colorful, and she gives them away to her own students and friends. They often reflect personal events or interests of the person she gifts them to. Another friend makes her own greeting cards, painting blanks and filling them with serious or silly thoughts. Many recipients frame them or keep them on their desks. I write and cartoon, and often translate my daily life as a nurse into humourous commentary on my blog – or into goofy pictures on my patient’s walls.

The very act of being creative changes the way you look at and process life. You think differently and act differently when you have an outlet for expressing yourself creatively. You start to look at the world not as a succession of problems and tasks, but as a collection of jumping-off points for creative expression. As with any other learning experience, your brain rewires itself, and then it learns to use these new neural pathways to solve old problems. New pathways that can be used to creatively move from Problem A to Solution B – pathways that might not have existed if you had never drawn that first cartoon on the whiteboard or written that first limerick – are the key reason reason to nurture your own and others’ creativity.

Think sideways.