STEMinism Sunday: Nurse and Children’s Writer, Marla Lesage

April 19, 2020

Author-illustrator, Marla LesageWelcome to STEMinism Sunday! As a former woman in science, I have a deep and enduring interest in the experiences and representation of women in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math). This series will be an opportunity for me – and you – to learn more about these intellectual badasses.

Today – a special guest post by children’s author/illustrator and woman-in-STEM Marla Lesage. To learn more about Marla’s work, visit her website or follow her on Twitter and Instagram @marlalesage — take it away, Marla!

I like to say that I’m very lucky because I have two careers. I’m a registered nurse – currently working part-time – but I’m also an author/illustrator/artist. My debut picture book, Pirate Year Round, was published last May and my poem, Snorkel, will be published in Highlights magazine this summer. When Lindsey sent a call out for other STEM writers to contribute to her weekly blog posts, I started to wonder, is nursing a STEM career? I’d hadn’t really given it much thought before. I did a quick search online and it turns out, the answer is yes, no, maybe, it should be, or it’s STEM-related, depending on who you ask.

What is STEM anyway?

Ever notice that the acronym varies? STEM, STEAM (A = art or agricultural studies), STEMM (the extra M = medicine). What exactly is included doesn’t seem to matter quite as much as the desire to focus on cross-disciplinary, applied learning.

What Makes Nursing STEM or STEM-related?

Marla Lesage uses heavy nursing texts to hold illustrations flat for scanningWhile nursing is an art, like other medical fields it is based firmly in science. For my degree, I had to study math & statistics, biology, chemistry, anatomy, psychology, physiology, and pathophysiology. In order to make good decisions in my daily practice I need to have a solid understanding of how the body works, what happens when things go wrong, how medications work & interact, how to calculate how much of a medication to give, and how to determine if the ordered dose is safe for that particular client. I need to be able to evaluate and interpret nursing and medical research and apply it to my practice. Nurses also need to understand how the communities we live in affect the health of community members… and so much more. Did you know that some nurses conduct research?

How Does a Career in Nursing Influence Me as an Author/Illustrator?

I like to joke about using my old nursing textbooks for taking better scans of my artwork. They work really well! They’re big and heavy and perfect for ensuring the paper is flat and pressed firmly against the scanner.

Joking aside, perhaps the most obvious influence is the Writing for Nurses class I took when I did my Masters degree. While the course was focused on speaking out and sharing experiences and research findings as a nurse, I learned many skills that have helped me as a writer in general. We learned about that nasty inner voice that tells us we can’t or that our writing doesn’t matter, that it stinks. We had to name it, tell it to shut up, and learn to ignore it. We learned how to write effectively for grants and how to edit our work to make it shine.

illustration of Marla Lesage in her role as nurseWhile writing for a nursing or other health journal is a bit different than writing for children these skills are expandable and applicable in any situation. And that anatomy course has definitely come in handy when illustrating people! Although the most valuable skill might be knowing how to evaluate sources of information when researching! Or is it knowing the fragility of life and how it can end or change dramatically in an instant? Knowledge that can push you to pursue your dreams and passions now instead of waiting for tomorrow.  

What’s the Best Part of Combining Careers in Nursing and Writing/Art?

Writing and creating art are wonderful ways to unwind. I think of them as forms of meditation. And although my current nursing job is low-stress, I think art is a wonderful way to unwind and rejuvenate when life and work can be stressful. As an emerging writer/artist my art and writing is finally paying for itself. But like many creatives, it’s my other job that pays the bills!

Thank you, Marla! I especially love what you said about training in ANY kind of writing being transferable to the other types of writing. Totally agree.

Are there any nurses reading the blog today? What do YOU think? Is nursing science, art, or the best parts of both?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *