UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital nurses show creativity, collaboration through painting project
A circle can symbolize many things: wholeness, commitment, completion, Earth, and enlightenment, just to name a few.
For a group of University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital nurses, a circle also can represent team-building, trust, collaboration, and community.
During National Nurses Week (May 6-12, 2016), UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital nurses participated in a “circle painting” project as a way to reduce work-related stress and strengthen team unity. Established by Vietnamese artist Hiep Nguyen, circle painting has become a worldwide movement to create peace through art-making.
In adopting this approach, Kamila Agi-Mejias, an art therapist at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital, brought canvases, brushes, and paint to several pediatric inpatient units. During organized breaks, nurses were asked to pick a color and paint circles on the canvas for two minutes. The nurses then chose a different color and painted more circles. Any initial hesitation, nervous giggles, or “I can’t do a good circle” statements soon gave way to a collective focus and a calming, creative mindset. As time was called and the next color was chosen, those who stayed with the project seemed to be fully immersed. Statements such as “This is so relaxing” were voiced. Conversations shifted to topics besides work, and the whole mood in the room shifted.
As the circle painting project continued overall several days, each nursing unit’s creation took on its own personality. Some nurses stopped in for just a few minutes, as schedules allowed, admiring the artwork or adding their circles to the canvas. When the results of one unit’s work were shown to a pediatric patient’s family members, one family member exclaimed, “Wow! I’m serious, I want to bid on that!” Another patient saw the work and requested a painting like this as a souvenir from the staff to hang with pride at home.
The paintings that resulted from the efforts of a group of nurses—individuals who came together regardless of artistic ability—demonstrates the power of working collaboratively. The effects were both immediate and long-lasting: getting past resistance and self-criticism, connecting with colleagues in new ways, seeing and appreciating the simplicity of effort and of the humble circle, and finding relaxation and respite for a few minutes from stressful work. Collectively, it represented healing on levels beyond what can be measured.
Comments from nurses such as “That’s my dot!” and “This was wonderful, we should do it again” all point to the power of creativity inherent in everyone. The nurses experienced firsthand what it was like to work side by side with others in a new way, creating something that initially seemed odd but became beautiful, with each person contributing to a piece that can be viewed and appreciated as tribute to a collective “wholeness.”