Creative Care: How Origami Can Help Heal

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Nursing is an art, according to Vanessa Tran. A year ago, Ms. Tran was a full-time nurse at Memorial Sloan Kettering when she discovered she could care for her patients in a unique way: through art. She began teaching an origami class to patients and their families in MSK’s 15th floor Recreation Center.

“Origami became a way for me to give patients a pause — a moment when they can shift their perspective and tap into their emotions and what they need to feel better,” she says.

She recalls her realization that she could use origami to help her patients during their treatments. One of her patients was having a hard day — he was sick of being sick. To give him a place to channel his emotions, Ms. Tran used some scrap paper to make an origami “stress ball” for him to hold while he was getting an IV inserted. “I told him he could put all his anger and frustration into the ball and crush it or throw it — whatever he needed,” she recalls.

Ms. Tran recently became a full-time MSK volunteer, teaching biweekly art classes, and is looking to start a career in integrative medicine.

“I have held many roles in nursing, from critical care to travel nursing to working at MSK, and it wasn’t until I started the origami class that I realized I could help patients through art,” Ms. Tran says. “Now it’s work I can’t not do.” 

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