Creative Nurses Care Beyond the Bedside
“It takes a special type of person to be a nurse.”
If I had a dollar for how many times I’ve heard someone say that… It is an expression I believe to be true. It also seems to me it just isn’t enough for nurses to be clinically proficient and intelligent. They must always be sensitive and empathetic – yet resilient enough to resist burnout. Oh, and yes, they can’t be squeamish or uncomfortable handling patients in the most intimate of situations. A nursing career seems so demanding I wonder – how do they do it? Yet they do, do it, day after day, for years on end. So when I hear about nurses who have what I can only refer to as a whole other career – one that showcases a completely different skill set no less – I’m doubly impressed.
Meet filmmaker Lary Campbell, RN/HN, CRC, and artist David Lentz, RN, MSN, both nurses at Pennsylvania Hospital of Penn Medicine.
First Lary… Lary Campbell is a psychiatric nurse at the Hall Mercer Crisis Response Center at Pennsylvania Hospital. Before becoming a nurse 35 years ago, he was an actor. However, his interest in acting started in his more formative years, as a teen growing up in the 1970s. Spurred on by winning a Super-8 camera on the Atlantic City boardwalk, Lary first explored movie-making through a more a typical teen fave genre – horror. “My friends and I would shoot short horror films in graveyards. Well, we did until we got kicked out for getting caught faux ‘strangling’ each other against a tombstone,” said Lary.
In the 1980’s Lary decided to try his hand at writing, directing, and producing and created the play Robby, about his experience caring for an eight year old child in Harlem with AIDS. It was this transformative experience that eventually led him to fulfill his ultimate dream of completing his first feature-length film, titled It Had to be You. The film was cast with all Philadelphia actors and shot in Philly’s “Gayborhood” and surrounding communities. A film about coping with HIV/AIDS, alcoholism and codependence issues in the gay community, It Had to be You was featured last summer at a sold-out screening at Philly’s Ritz East Theatre as part of the 19th Philadelphia QFest.
“It Had to Be You portrays three couples, two male and one female, as they negotiate life, death, love and the age-old question, why we’re here,” said Lary. “I see my filmmaker role as an extension of my nursing role as healer, and, in this respect, as an opportunity to perform outreach to the community.”
Lary’s inaugural full-length filmmaking effort had far-reaching effect. It Had to be You played at the 2013 San Tropez International Film Festival where it garnered the Best Supporting Actress Award for Philadelphian Robin Jarret. The three-day St. Tropez Festival is held concurrently with the Cannes Film Festival, and is one of Europe’s most respected events to showcase emerging talent.
Lary, along with colleague Beth Dunn, RN, an oncology and dialysis clinical nurse manager at Pennsylvania Hospital, walked the red carpet at the St. Tropez Festival’s final night in Nice, France, to attend the star-studded dinner and awards presentation. “All in all, I hope, with It Had to be You gaining European recognition, I can forge the role of ‘media nurse’ and reach people not only in Philadelphia and the U.S., but throughout the digital and international communities as well. I hope to eventually combine nursing and filmmaking to expand community nursing using the tools of video and film,” said Lary.
To gain international recognition is quite a feat considering the humble beginnings of Lary’s film. “It Had to be You was shot entirely on standard digital video and as Lary puts it – “made on a nurses' salary” – not that of a movie mogul. “In the film industry, because of just how small the budget was, it is considered a ‘’No Budget’ feature,” explained Lary. “It just goes to show that you don’t need millions to effectively connect with others. If your heart is in it, your message will reach others.”
In addition to his work as a nurse and filmmaker, Lary is also a volunteer supervisor at the Peer Counseling Program for the William Way LGBT Center in Center City Philadelphia.
Now David… David Lentz, a critical care nurse who has been with PAH for the past eight years, shows his creative side to the world these days as an artist specializing in mixed media on canvas painting – including watercolor, acrylic, and frisket.
Originally from York, PA, David moved to Philadelphia in 1996 to study chemical engineering at Drexel University. After receiving his bachelor’s degree he moved to California, living briefly in Santa Cruz, San Diego, and eventually San Francisco for nine years.
While in San Francisco, David experienced what he calls “a creative explosion,” which spurred him to explore the arts including everything from watercolor painting, playing the piano, harp and guitar, crocheting, photography, yoga, singing, songwriting, and gardening. “I had many different jobs during my creative years,” said David. “I was a chemical validation and process engineer, an architectural drafter, a florist, and a consultant. Being a florist gave me an appreciation of flowers, which I still paint a lot of today.”
After his creative exploration, David felt he needed a change. So he asked himself: what did he truly want to do? His answer was clear: to help people. So in 2005, he traveled cross country back to Philadelphia. After a year of pre-requisite courses at the Community College of Philadelphia he then enrolled in Drexel’s Accelerated Career Entry (ACE) nursing program, where he earned his Nursing bachelor’s degree and RN license within a year. He joined the Pennsylvania Hospital nursing staff immediately after earning his degree.
David worked on the oncology and Pavilion unit's of Pennsylvania Hospital until transitioning to a critical care unit early this year. "Critical care is my new home and a long term goal accomplished," said David. Not content to rest on his laurels, he is currently hard at work on another career - earning a Masters in Health Informatics at Drexel.
Since working at Pennsylvania Hospital David has been able to successfully combine two passions of nursing and painting. He has contributed 13 of his pieces to the Oncology unit patient rooms and nurse’s station at Pennsylvania Hospital. He also has ten pieces on display in Penn’s Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine. David was also a “Best of Show” winner at the Penn Medicine 2012 and 2014 “Celebration of Art and Life” exhibits.
“It was exciting to be picked to show, let alone win a Best in Show,” said David. “I am very proud to have my pieces on display throughout Penn Medicine because I believe art heals the soul and is a mission of mine to get more art in more hospitals everywhere. It’s wonderful to know it cheers people up and helps our oncology patients hopefully forget for a second that they have cancer. Health care workers and families always get joy from the paintings as well and I am always looking for generous donors to help supply more hospital hallways and patient rooms with artwork.”
This year, one of David’s creations found a new venue for display – the nurses break room in the Oncology unit where he works at Pennsylvania Hospital.
“Nurse fatigue is a common problem in nursing practice today. Nurses often work 12-hour shifts and can’t get to or finish their breaks during their shift due to patient care priorities,” said Lisa O'Neill, MPH, BSN, RN, oncology and dialysis clinical nurse manager. “On our 6 Schiedt oncology patient unit, nurses take their breaks and lunches in the break room in the unit. They all felt the environment needed to be more conducive to regenerating themselves during their break. So, the nursing staff asked David to paint a mural in the break room to make it more aesthetically pleasing and pleasant place to de-stress and re-energize.” The wall mural of birch trees with subliminal messages embedded in the foliage around them, is framed to appear as if you’re looking out a window at the scene. “We are grateful to David for his lovely personalized effort toward making a calming environment for our nursing staff,” added O’Neill.
“I am a self taught watercolor artist,” said David. “I have a fond appreciation for flowers and landscapes, although I have tried to stretch my bounds as an artist over the years, and find my style is ever evolving.” To see more of David’s artwork visit his website.