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"I was finding that doing something separate from nursing was what gave me the energy to do nursing."

 

Artful Balance
Pat Sullivan's world of creativity complements her work as a nurse.


Pat Sullivan
The series of 20 black-and-white images on display at Baltimore's School 33 Art Center tells the story of how a tiny baby, a preemie who spent 72 days in an intensive care unit, developed and grew. They are a testament not only to the infant's will to survive but also to the unspoken fears of the person who took them, the baby's grandmother, Pat Sullivan. And they represent Sullivan's deep and abiding interest in the arts, one that for 25 years has paralleled and complemented her rise through the ranks of nursing, from new grad in emergency medicine to nurse manager of several psychiatric units on Meyer 3.

In the early 1970s, Sullivan, then a young mother with three small children, seriously considered pursuing a path in the arts. Her penchant for science and keen interest in people won out, though, and soon she was enrolled in nursing school, on her way to a four-year degree.

At the same time, she began to study art, taking classes in fabric design, oil and watercolor at the Maryland Institute College of Art. By the time she started practicing, in Hopkins' Emergency Department, she knew she could balance work with her creative pursuits, and she soon was in search of a new, arts-oriented outlet.

It was then, in 1983, that Sullivan discovered the Baltimore Museum of Art and its training program for guides, or docents. "My heart leapt. I knew I'd found the right path." Sullivan spent three hours a week in the rigorous, year-long docent class and then began regular volunteer work, leading museum tours for children and adults. All the while, as she worked in the ED, the hard-edged world of human suffering was balanced by the world of beauty she had found within the cool confines of the BMA. "I was finding that doing something separate from nursing was what gave me the energy to do nursing."

Sullivan put the BMA on hold when she switched to psychiatric nursing and earned a master's degree, but she plunged back into her avocation-this time at School 33-as soon as she had completed her studies. Today, more than a decade later, she continues there, a "perpetual student," as she says, working at figure painting, printmaking and, especially, photography. Her lens is constantly focused on people and their stories, and that, too, is what drives her in her work as a psychiatric nurse. "More and more, I find myself taking up my camera. I'm just shooting like crazy."

-Anne Bennett Swingle

 

 

 

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