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The Catalyst

Peds Cardiology ICU staff show creativity during construction

By Emily Upshur
Public Relations

PCICU registered nurses Kristi Gaudet, left, and Catherine Reeves, mimic the linked hands on the unit mural located on the fourth floor of the University hospital. Reeves, who was the mastermind behind the idea, was the first staff member who traced her likeness on the walls.  photos by Emily Upshur, Public Relations

Minor construction is going on in the Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, and the staff is making the atmosphere a little brighter by expressing their artistic abilities.

The PCICU began construction in May to make space for the addition of two beds to the 12–bed unit. Because the PCICU has continued to operate during the construction process, the crew put up temporary plaster walls to lessen noise and provide protection and infection control for patients. After a few days of having the walls up, one of the construction workers suggested that the nurses paint them. Little did he know just how enthusiastically the nurses and doctors of the PCICU would take to his suggestion.

“At the time that the walls were put up we had a lower census and more downtime on the unit. The nurses started painting caricatures of themselves on the walls. Each nurse traced his or her outline and painted over the outline.


“Now the walls are covered with some of our nurses, a few of our patient care techs, the perfusion team, our physicians and two of our surgeons, and our dietitian and pharmacist,” said Amanda Schubert, R.N., interim nurse manager of the PCICU.

William Catoe, R.N., stands next to his Spiderman caricature.

Each caricature is unique and carries elements of its creator. One figure features the head tilt of its nurse, while another holds up a plate of waffles. Two male nurses on the PCICU staff painted their caricatures to look like Spiderman and Dr. Octopus. The perfusion team added some 3–D effects by making use of actual hats and intravenous therapy bags. One of the likenesses, based on a nurse who is described as the “caregiver of the unit,” wears a crown made out of a Ghirardelli® brownie–mix box and occasionally has candy bags pinned to its shoulder.

Schubert said that at first the walls were seen as an obstacle and nuisance to the staff of the PCICU. They were blocking off part of the unit, preventing easy access and visibility, and the color was just plain, boring white. Now, however, staff, patients and patient families have grown attached to the paintings. Some of the nurses have taken pictures of the mural and hope to save pieces of the walls after the final inspection in August.

Catherine Reeves, R.N., the nurse responsible for starting the painting, said “It was a lot of fun taking out our frustrations on the walls by painting ourselves and making a big mural. We have patients and families commenting on how bright and cheerful it is. Even our older kids like it and being part of putting their names on the walls and helping us paint. I’m almost sad to see them come down when the two new beds are finished.”

The murals demonstrate the PCICU team’s versatility in working under difficult conditions. Despite the reduced space and lack of accessibility, nursing staff made the walls work to their advantage.

Schubert described how the bright colors helped make the unit look more like a children’s area and the way patients and their families offered their own creative ideas during the process. The entire painting process became a conversation starter with visitors as well as a morale booster and stress reliever for the unit staff.     

“I think it demonstrates how the nurses here are really adaptable. Because we were put into a situation where we couldn’t walk across our unit easily — it could have been a real mess — but then someone came up with the idea and it became something beautiful that people really enjoy,” said Louis Castellano, R.N.

John Sanders, the administrator of the Children’s Hospital, echoes that sentiment. “In most circumstances having construction done in a working unit can be very difficult and disruptive,” he said. “The staff and physicians in the PCICU chose to make the event memorable by putting up images of each other. The families and children love it! This is a great team that has made a tough situation fun.”

To learn more about MUSC’s PCICU, check out their webpage at


July 25, 2014



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