Student nurses use art to heal through the pandemic

Top: Brianna Cloutier; Cayla Jill Bueno
Below: Isabella Boateng; Brianna Laforest 

By Gretheline Bolandrina

As the number of infections with the new COVID-19 variants continues to rise, frontline workers are being pushed beyond breaking point. Coping with the stress and anxiety is a struggle for many health care workers as it is for nursing students who are just getting their feet wet. In an online collaboration, student nurses — on track to be LPNs (licensed practical nurses) and RNs (registered nurses) upon graduation — share their ‘best practices’ coping with the pandemic.

Taking part in creative activities can help individuals express emotions too difficult to put into words, such as being witness to one death after another. Arts and being crafty have made these nurses-in-training feel relaxed after a long day’s work.

 Brianna Cloutier of Charlton, MA 

Brianna is a practical nursing student at Bay Path Practical Nursing Academy.  She has previously worked as a Certified Clinical Medical Assistant, as a Developmental Specialist, and as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). Since starting her nursing journey she has been learning about COVID 19, preventing the spread, and staying safe and healthy. She completed the COVID-19 Contact Tracing through Coursera at the Johns Hopkins University. Working on term 2 courses, which includes the challenging medical-surgical nursing, she has been channeling her experiences on the front line into the magic of scrapbooking and crafts. She is also actively participating in projects such as the diversity and inclusion for PN Class of 2021 having been picked as the liaison for Walmart’s giving grant. She recently completed two days of clinical observation at the Wound Clinic and is in awe at the nurses involved with hyperbaric wound therapy.  

Cayla’s stickers are available on her creativejuice website.

Cayla Jill Bueno of Quezon City, Philippines  

Thousands of miles away, Cayla is going through a similar situation. A first-year nursing student at the Far Eastern University Nicanor Reyes Medical Foundation, Cayla has seen how nurses have endured pain and suffering through news and social media. Seeing that hospitals were running out of capacity and that personal protective equipment were in short supply, she felt helpless. Across the globe she witnessed her grandmother, Estrella Ramos in New York make fabric masks for the community. Cayla was inspired. Her grandmother’s act of kindness moved her. She has aunts and uncles in the healthcare field working in the frontlines in Boston, New York, New Jersey, Texas, and California as nurses, physical therapist, activities assistant, dialysis technicians, and even caregivers. A first cousin, a Filipino-Japanese is also a nurse at Hiratsuka, Kanagawa, Japan.   

Using her digital art skills to channel her emotions, Cayla began creating anime fan art stickers. Her website is called ‘creativejuice’ on Shopee. She takes pride in having 92 followers as her site continues to build on its 15 products. She has an ongoing sticker project commissioned for the Bay Path Practical Nursing Academy students in Charlton, Massachusetts.  

Isabella Boateng of Manchester, CT 

Isabella is a practical nursing student at Bay Path Practical Nursing Academy. As a Certified Nursing Assistant, she spends her days caring for her patients and maintaining their safety from COVID-19 and its complications. Working at All Ways There Home Care in Vernon, CT she has been channeling her anxieties as a front line worker into the culinary arts. As one of the student representatives for the PN Class of 2021, she helps spread the message for prevention:  mask, physical distancing, and handwashing. As a UNICEF Club officer, she helps out in food-related fundraising to support projects for children. Isabella has been called an “angel on earth” by a former patient.

Floral arrangements by Brianna cheer up her patients.

Brianna Laforest of Webster, MA  

Creating art is a way for Brianna to remember and capture her experiences on the front line. Being creative and making art helps her cope. She does gorgeous flower arrangements spreading cheer along the way. She believes blooms have uplifting effects on people. Chronic stress and depression can contribute to negative health outcomes such as poor cardiovascular health. Brianna has young children, and she hopes they can one day say their mom worked during the pandemic and she did a great job. She is the Nursing Administrative Coordinator at UMass Memorial Medical Center. As a practical nursing student, she reports to Harrington Hospital for her medical-surgical nursing rotation. She juggles a busy household, a challenging job, and nursing school.  

NaFFAA continues to update its list of newly elected, re-elected Filipino American officials in 2020. Email for information.

(C) The FilAm 2021

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