Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Learning to heal

Jeanne Bryner
Nora Mazur
Newton Falls, Ohio, United States


Top pieced by Jeanne Bryner
Quilting done by Nora Mazur

Jeanne Bryner: Quilts are important in my Appalachian culture. Narratives of beauty and truth are pieced together, preserving family history. This quilt contains photos of a special family of international sisters and brothers in the nursing profession. Caring for the bodies of the sick is a sacred path and the faces on this quilt reflect a deep reverence for life. Collectively, there are 1,517 years of nursing service represented in this 41” X 57” quilt. The gray fabric represents support pillars: patients depend on us, and we depend on each other. The arches were inspired by the design of the Sistine Chapel. The tan fabric with its lacy pattern reminds us of the grace, art, and skill of nurses’ hands. Nurses join hands and hearts, we braid our skills, and by our actions, say to the world, “This is who we are, and this is what we can do.”

Nora Mazur: There are numerous ways to quilt, and when I presented the idea for the nursing quilt to my quilting group, we chose this design after studying images of the Sistine Chapel. As I worked, I paid very little attention to the faces in the photos. My charge was to enhance those faces with stitched patterns. I wanted to echo the gray arches in the design by creating my own arches and designing a rippling effect of arches in the quilt’s center. Upon completion, I felt the very center still needed something. The arches flowed across the cloth, but where did they get their energy? A star burst came to my mind’s eye.




  1. This quilt will travel with the new anthology, Learning to Heal: Reflections on Nursing School in Prose and Poetry, eds. Jeanne Bryner & Cortney Davis, Kent State University Press, Literature & Medicine Series, 2018.



JEANNE BRYNER, RN, BA, CEN (rtd), was born in Appalachia. A graduate of Trumbull Memorial Hospital School of Nursing and the Honors College of Kent State University, she’s a retired board certified emergency room nurse with several books in print. Her work has been adapted for the stage, performed nationally and in Scotland for the 2004 Fringe Festival. Recently she co-edited Learning to Heal: Reflections on Nursing School in Poetry and Prose with Cortney Davis. This anthology received the Tillie Olsen Award for creative writing from the Working Class Studies Association and first place in the 2019 Book of the Year Award from the American Journal of Nursing for creative works. She has received writing fellowships from Bucknell University, the Ohio Arts Council, and Vermont Studio Center. She teaches writing workshops in schools, universities, cancer support groups, and assisted living facilities. She lives with her husband near a dairy farm in Ohio.

NORA MAZUR is a retired surgical nurse with over four decades of beside nursing experience. A graduate of Trumbull Memorial Hospital School of Nursing, she was secretary to AFSME Local 62 nursing union. The daughter of a nurse, mother of two children, and grandmother to five beautiful grandchildren, she has a passion for quilting on her long-arm machine and enjoys the company of other quilters. She and her husband, Bob, live in Champion, Ohio.


Spring 2020  |   Sections  |  Nursing

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