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A Party with Death

April 6, 2009 -- Recent press articles have told the stories of people in different parts of the world who mix nursing and art in ways that may serve both fields. On March 10, the Yuma Sun (Arizona) posted Geovana Ruano's profile of the experienced Mexican nurse and poet Beda Laura Domínguez, "A poet in search of love." And today, the Philippine Daily Inquirer posted Tony Maghirang's "Double life: Rapper wants to be a nurse," a portrait of a popular rapper who, despite having a stage name based on a gun, is in his third year of nursing school. Although the Yuma Sun piece does not have much about nursing, both profiles say that their subjects have incorporated aspects of nursing into their art, potentially conveying information about the profession in an engaging way and suggesting to the public that nurses are articulate observers of the human condition.

The Yuma Sun article "A poet in search of love."

The Yuma Sun piece, which originated in the Spanish-language Bajo El Sol, focuses on Domínguez's poetry and views of love, which appears to be the subject of much of her work. The article describes her increasing success in Mexico and as far away as Spain, where, she suggests, readers are intrigued by her "idea of eroticism." But the profile also says that for many years she has practiced nursing at the Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social, where she works nights. And the piece notes that Domínguez's poem "Convite con la muerte" (A Party with Death) "describes death roaming the halls of the emergency room." It also notes that she "has the ability to identify the needs of her patients during long night shifts," and that "[h]er creative inspiration came about during those quiet nights filled with strong emotions."

On the other hand, the piece reveals something of the common attitudes toward nursing in its first sentence:

How does a nurse manage to move to tears a TV personality as well as the most methodical and emotionally inaccessible doctor, as well as entertain hyperactive children and win over Spain with her literary work?

The implication is that it's surprising that a nurse like Domínguez, of all people, could have such a cultural impact (the piece never really explains some elements of the question, such as the reference to the TV personality and the physician). However, it does give Domínguez ample opportunities to explain her perspective and her method:

My inspiration comes from my daily surroundings, from people, as well as events that happen around me. I try to focus on the simple things because we are always attracted to things out of the ordinary and yet we ignore the details. I like to focus on a child's smile, or the smile of an elderly person. I look for innocence, their desire to please people, and to live.

The item shows that Domínguez has diverse talents. She is now finishing "a book about a frog" called "Lula: la ranita soñadora" (Lula the dreamer), she gives workshops on children's stories at public libraries and "workshops on sex education at Immaculate Conception Church"--which we are sorry to have missed--and she "invites everyone to write poetry in their free time." In fact, many nurses have heeded that call, as Los Angeles poetry magazine RATTLE's excellent 2007 Tribute to Nurses showed.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer article "Double life: Rapper wants to be a nurse."

The Philippine Daily Inquirer item tells a different story. Here the writer's surprise is not that a nurse could have a cultural impact, but that, although rappers usually look "tough" and "ready to rumble," a prominent "rapper who named himself after a lethal weapon is also studying to be ... a nurse!" The man with the stage name Gloc-9 (after the Glock 9mm semi-automatic pistol) is Aristotle "Aris" Pollisco. The piece appears to enjoy both the real contrast between the life-taking and life-saving themes, and the apparent contrast between the "tough" masculine rap image and the supposedly softer feminine one of the nurse. But nurses, of course, have to be tougher than most people to do their work. And the reporter might have asked Gloc-9 whether his stage name is not just ironic, but could also be seen as glamorizing the violence that many nurses spend their lives trying to remedy.

This piece describes Gloc-9's considerable success as a rapper. He has a contract with Sony BMG, has been voted Best Rap Artist at national hip-hop awards shows in the Philippines, and has opened for Craig David. Apparently, Gloc-9's flow is unusually fast. But the profile also spends more time on nursing than the Yuma Sun did. Noting that "Aris" is in his third year at the STI School of Nursing, the article reports that he "is looking forward to a second career where he gets to help save lives."

I chose nursing because I want to help others, especially the needy and sick children. To me, serving others is very rewarding. Plus, it can help me later on to provide a good life for our twins.

The report describes how the Quezon City resident balances work and school.

As a third-year nursing major, Aris is required to spend eight hours of evening duty in a Bulacan hospital. Some nights, Aris says, he skips this duty due to gigs. But he makes up for it by reporting for two shifts and paying a P500 fine. [His wife] Thea, who also acts as his booking manager, picks only those gigs that will allow him to report for hospital duty the following day; or, where his fee will be commensurate with his missed duty. As much as possible, though, he puts priority on his studies.

And the piece also provides a short but generally good look at some of the substantive elements of his training:

Training at the nursing school is rigorous and fully prepares the student for the profession. Aris is particularly fond of hours spent at Return Learning Experience, a practicum laboratory where a student could practice the theory right after the lecture. The RLE Lab is equipped with dummies on which the student can apply his nursing abilities prior to formal internship. Aris says most male students have fun attending to the maternity patient. But the situation at the hospital can be emotionally draining. He has witnessed enough heart-wrenching scenes to conclude, "It's really so hard to be poor in this country."

But of course, that kind of experience can play a key role in art, and Aris says he has "written a lot of songs about my duties at the hospital. My twin lives as artist and nurse inspire each other." This also appears to be the case with University of Alabama - Birmingham nurse rapper Craig Barton (a.k.a. MC Valid), whose 2004 emergency room rap is a clever and instructive look at the skills and experiences of ED nurses.

What these two articles have in common is the potential to disrupt the common social views that nurses are virtuous but not necessarily articulate or creative. And although the pieces do not really give many specifics about how nursing figures in these artists' work--we don't get any samples of Domínguez's or Gloc-9's lines about nursing--that work has the potential to convey important aspects of nursing to unsuspecting listeners. That is the kind of "learning experience" that can save lives, as the public comes to understand more of the importance of nursing, and allocates resources accordingly.

We thank the Yuma Sun, the Philippine Inquirer, and their reporters.  

See Tony Maghirang's piece "Double life: Rapper wants to be a nurse" in the Philippine Daily Inquirer posted on April 6, 2009.

See Geovana Ruano's article "Beda Laura: A poet in search of love" in the Yuma Sun posted on March 10, 2009.


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