Nurse creates artwork inspired by Vanderbilt’s orthopaedic patients
Recycled paper and expired test tubes find new life in colorful greetings for patientsMarch 27, 2019
Giro Gabayoyo’s artwork is displayed outside Orthopaedic units at VUMC. Photo by Susan Urmy
Aside from the friendly smiles of nurses, doctors and staff, one of the first things patients see when they visit Orthopaedic units at VUMC is a colorful art display, inspired by both orthopaedics and the bright greenery of spring.
On the sixth floor of the Round Wing, visitors are greeted by two skeletal designs comprised of canvases covered in oil paint. Scenes of the Nashville skyline are accompanied by serene, flower-engrossed landscapes. The 10th floor of the Vanderbilt University Adult Hospital offers a similar display.
“Interacting with patients every day and all of the different emotions they might be experiencing — some of that comes out in my art.”
And while they may never know it, many of the patients who pass by the displays played a role in their inspiration.
“Interacting with patients every day and all of the different emotions they might be experiencing — some of that comes out in my art,” said Giro Gabayoyo, RN, a nurse in Vanderbilt’s Orthopaedic and Orthopaedic Trauma units. “Each patient has a different personality you have to meet, and you have to interact in a way that’s therapeutic to them.”
For Gabayoyo, creating art is a way to process the different emotions he experiences working with patients every day. After a 12-hour shift on his feet, having the freedom to express his feelings through art is calming.
“Some patients are experiencing more stress, while others will joke with you. If they have frustration, there might be a little bit of red, yellow or orange in the piece I’m creating to show that emotion,” said Gabayoyo.
A native of Bacolod City, Philippines, Gabayoyo moved to the United States in 1994 to pursue a nursing job after having served as a volunteer nurse in the Philippines. New opportunities caused him to move 13 times before he settled in Nashville and at Vanderbilt in 2003.
With his first nursing job came the funds to cultivate his interest in art.
“Growing up in the Philippines, I couldn’t afford to do oil painting. So, when I got my first job, I decided to start it. And I loved it,” said Gabayoyo.
Among Gabayoyo’s common sources of inspiration are the changing seasons of Tennessee, which he had never experienced before his journey to the United States.
“We didn’t have seasons in the Philippines. So, when I came to the States, I was overwhelmed by all the colors,” said Gabayoyo. “The leaves can turn orange and yellow. I had never seen it before.”
“I love that we have a resident artist on the unit, and I love that he shares his talent with us without any expectation of return other than our appreciation.”
Although oil painting is his favorite means of expression, Gabayoyo also creates mixed media art, which incorporates materials found around the Orthopaedic units. Discarded cups, recycled papers and expired test tubes often find new life through his displays.
Gabayoyo’s artwork has been showcased in galleries across the city, including during the First Saturday Art Crawl, a monthly event featuring local artists in a string of downtown galleries. He participates each year in the “Get Cultured” international art exhibit held in October in the Centennial Art Center and has had pieces recognized by the Frist Center for Visual Arts, Two Moon Gallery and Nashville Arts Magazine.
Expressing the emotions he experiences in a visual way also helps him keep them from interfering with his ability to best care for patients.
“When I come to work, I make sure my emotions are clear. I’m here as a sponge — absorbing each patient and making sure they feel OK,” said Gabayoyo. “Especially meeting a patient for the first time, when I don’t know them at all, it’s important to make them feel welcome and let them know we’re here for them and want to help.”
Gabayoyo’s clinic displays change with the seasons that inspire them, ensuring patients have new colors and scenes to greet them each time they visit. Since he seldom has room in his apartment to store his work, Gabayoyo often ends up giving pieces to his co-workers as each display is replaced.
Ginger Ketschke, LCSW, CCM, an orthopaedic social worker who has worked with Gabayoyo for more than 15 years, looks forward to seeing what each new display will bring.
“I walk past Giro’s creations constantly all week and enjoy stopping to look at and reconsider what is under the glass,” said Ketschke. “I love that we have a resident artist on the unit, and I love that he shares his talent with us without any expectation of return other than our appreciation.”