The Write Way

The Write Way

Put pen to paper and keep perspective

By Christine Contillo
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This past spring I was lucky enough to be invited to the Yale School of Nursing Creative Writing Awards ceremony. The BSN program there is an accelerated BS-to-BSN degree, and students are required to keep a journal about the process of becoming a nurse. We don’t think about that very much, that we are actually becoming very different people along the way. Not just learning new skills, not just figuring out how to make those skills work in our practice, but entering the process as one person and emerging as someone entirely changed by the experience.

The winner of the first place $500 award this year was a Jewish nurse who wrote about being left at the bedside of a Christian hospice patient and having to sort out her feelings. Along with applying nursing principles new to her in a location where she felt uncomfortable she had to figure out how to help this patient. Sound familiar? I think we’ve all been there, especially as novices. She quickly figured out that there was a similarity between hymns and lullabies and moved on to make the patient’s time there as soothing as possible, which is one of the goals of hospice practice.

While listening to the winning essays it became apparent how much we are affected by our patients and how much it helps us process the emotion when we write about it. Nursing is not easy. If we allow it, the job can drag us down and interfere with our other relationships. We’re tired, we’re frazzled, we’re not respected…we’ve all felt it. But journaling helps us get a perspective on it, as does sharing our feelings with others.

Many nurse writers have learned the value of blogging. The sites I check often include Kim at, who has a large following;; and In fact, there are so many to pick from that it’s hard to know which to choose. If you have some favorites, please share.  

Christine Contillo, RN, BSN, has worked as a nurse since 1979 and has written extensively for various nursing publications, as well as The New York Times.

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