Isolation Mask

Isolation Mask – Julie Shinn 2018

This painting above brought me back to art. In 2017, the ANA (American Nurses Association) posted a clip on my Facebook newsfeed about a call to artists for works related to Clinician Burnout. Well, I was a clinician, I was an artist, and I was definitely burned out!! I dusted off my old paints, bought a few extra, and poured out my heart onto several canvases. The first painting I started (see below), depicted a reflective nurse beside a bridge, with the sun represented by a clock face, and abstract figures going round in the distance. For a twelve hour shift, those faceless figures have a name, a family, a story. I was not happy with the quality of the painting at all, and the collage element of the clock face still irritates me. I love the story this painting tells, though, and one day I’ll do it justice. We are all part of the same human spirit, united in the highs and lows of life. Our tragedies have happened to countless others who have come before us, and will continue long after we leave this earth. Being a nurse awakened this reality in me, and the stories I tell on canvas are inspired by this knowledge.

For the call to art request, I eventually moved on to a self portrait with collaged words and shapes representing the challenges clinicians face in healthcare. I scoured Pinterest for styles I wanted to emulate, researched mixed media, and invested in some stencils to produce an interesting background. The final product was selected to be a part of the National Academy of Medicine’s Online Art Gallery. Recently, Medscape featured my painting, along with the essay I wrote, in an article entitled, “Physician Burnout and Sadness: Powerful Expressions” and I am quoted in the National Academy of Medicine’s 312 page report about the issue. I haven’t stopped painting, and now my biggest support for my art comes from my patients. Looking at my happy flowers and faces help us to not dwell on the bad stuff, and have hope for the best times in life.

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