Close Observation: The Skills of Nursing and Writing

The difficulty – and joy – of interviewing Cortney Davis, Paula Sergi, and Stacy Nigliazzo over email was that their ideas kept spilling out from the questions until there were two conversations, one in the interview and one in the email thread. We covered bed baths, Ray LaMontagne, childhood fascination with the musculoskeletal system, Montessori schools, and Cortney’s article in the American Journal of Nursing, “Nursing Humanities: The Time Has Come” – and that’s not including the actual interview.

But don’t worry: the interview ended up being so wide-ranging that we split it into three parts. I hoped to understand what it’s like to be a nurse and a writer, what it’s like to be part of a literary world and a medical setting, and the changes that these three authors would like to see in each. I was also curious about how we value nurses and nursing. Stacy Nigliazzo wrote that she “would love to redefine the role of leadership, particularly at our hospitals,” while Paula Sergi posited that “we need to somehow make a job in health care as tempting as a job in finance.” Throughout the interview, all three nurses wrote about the power of close observation. I was struck by their intelligence, skill, and tenacity. It was a pleasure getting to know them through their words.

Monica Wendel
Associate Editor

Part I: Close Observation

Part II:  Gratitude, Community, and Leadership

Part III: Influences and Responses

Download a PDF of the complete roundtable.

Our participants:

Cortney Davis
Stacy Nigliazzo
Paula Sergi

Cortney Davis, a nurse practitioner, is the author, most recently, of When the Nurse Becomes a Patient: A Story in Words and Images, and of The Heart's Truth: Essays on the Art of Nursing. Davis' full-length poetry collections include Leopold's Maneuvers, winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Award, Details of Flesh, and three poetry chapbooks. Her honors include the Nightingale Award for Excellence in Nursing, an NEA Poetry Fellowship, three CT Commission on the Arts Poetry Grants, and three American Journal of Nursing Book of the Year Awards. She is co-editor of two anthologies of poetry and prose by nurses, Between the Heartbeats and Intensive Care.

Stacy R. Nigliazzo is a lifelong poet and an emergency room nurse. Her debut poetry collection Scissored Moon (Press 53, 2013) was awarded first place in the 2014 American Journal of Nursing Book of the Year Awards (public interest and creative works category). She was also short-listed as a finalist for the Texas Institute of Letters First Book of Poetry/Bob Bush Award and the Julie Suk Poetry Prize (Jacar Press). She will be the keynote speaker at the upcoming Western Michigan University Medical Humanities Conference (September 2015).

Paula Sergi holds a BSN from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. After a career in public health nursing, she obtained an MFA in creative writing from Vermont College. Her book publications include the anthologies: A Call to Nursing and Meditations on Hope (Kaplan) and Boomer Girls: Poems by Women from the Baby Boom Generation, (University of Iowa Press). Original poetry collections include Brother (Action), Family Business and Black Forest Love Songs, both from Finishing Line Press.

The Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, along with the Hessen Literary Society, selected her as the 2005 cultural ambassador to Hessen, Germany where she taught poetry in schools during a three month residency. A recipient of a Wisconsin Arts Board Artist Fellowship, her writing is published regularly in such journals as Witness, Crab Orchard Review, Rattle, and Spoon River Poetry Review.