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Jane Bates: How art helped me cope with the tough times

Jane Bates recalls how the calm she found in art galleries helped heal the stress of working night duty as a nursing student

Jane Bates recalls how the calm she found in art galleries helped heal the stress of working night duty as a nursing student


Picture: Alamy

On a visit to the Tate Britain in London the other day I experienced such a tug from the past that I almost felt it physically.

This art gallery was my go-to place when, as a nursing student, I was particularly stressed after night duty. It was the same when I worked in Edinburgh – the Scottish National Gallery was a short bus ride away from the Royal Infirmary, and it offered me calm and solace when I needed it most.

There was something about those great works of art that healed my battered emotions. The beauty of painting when I was constantly dealing with the ugliness of pain and sickness, and the calm of those vast, silent rooms after the frenetic demands of the ward.

Oasis of sanity

It was a reminder that there was more to life than my job, which as we all know can be so overwhelming at times that we lose track of what is normal. It was oxygen to my soul, and I was at last able to breathe.

This oasis of sanity was more beneficial than bed. Better than breakfast, although coffee and cake in the gallery canteen were part of the therapy.

When we discussed our day’s sleep – as nurses on night duty always do – I would confess that no, I hadn’t taken two Mogadon and slipped into a coma like everyone else, I had gone to the Tate instead because the one-dimensional, semi-existence of night duty was driving me crazy.

Nursing takes it out of us in almost every way, and we all have to discover our own restorative strategies, whether it be art, music, prayer or just staring into space while rocking gently back and forth.

We need to take care of ourselves, because no one else will.


Jane Bates is an ophthalmic nurse in Hampshire

 

 

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