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Like many of her fellow nurse/artists, Nurse of the Week Donna Dzialo, CRNA has her own distinctive take on Creative Nursing. DailyNurse has spotlighted talented nurse photographers, pop singers, and ICU mural painters, but this might be our first found-objects nurse artist.

Donna Dzialo, CRNA and artist.

During a shift one day in 2018, Dzialo had a Eureka moment when items a nurse anesthetist customarily disposes of after use caught her eye. The drug vial caps she’d been tossing without a thought covered the color spectrum. The caps in the bin ran the gamut from deep, jewel-like blues and purples, to intense reds and yellows… and, wasn’t there something potentially beautiful there? From that day forward the CRNA stopped throwing out those bright plastic caps and instead began pouring them into a unique and meaningful home-based recycling project.

Dzialo earned a bachelor’s in 1996 from the Wayne State University (WSU) College of Nursing and then a master’s in 1999 from the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice program (as it is now known), but now she is taking multitasking to a whole new level. Asked about her choice of medium, she said, “The caps have a unique beauty that I appreciated as a nurse, a scientist, and an artist.”

A colleague at Ascension Providence Rochester Hospital, pre-op RN Cheryl Dassow-Chapman, suggested she create a mosaic version of a Monet painting, “but when COVID came and changed the world, it also changed my design plan.”

Dzialo spent hours upon hours in her basement workspace, ultimately piecing together more than 6,000 caps of nearly 400 different colors, sizes, shapes and textures. Using IV tubing and needle covers along with the caps, she created “COVID Time CAPSule,” representing infected cells, blood cells and antibodies. (And if there is Hall of Fame recognition for great puns, she should definitely be a nominee).

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“Viruses are smaller than a grain of salt but have an astounding impact on us all — on our health, mental wellness, work, travel, and community and family relationships,” Dzialo said. “The caps shown here, with different colors, shapes, sizes, finishes and all their different potential combinations, make this work as unique as we are.”


The 8- by 4-foot project earned a coveted spot on display at the downtown JW Marriott hotel during last fall’s ArtPrize, an international art competition held in Grand Rapids, Michigan, since 2009. ArtPrize celebrates artists working in all mediums from anywhere in the world and is open to anyone with artwork to enter and a venue willing to host it.

For three weeks each autumn, art is exhibited throughout the city in parks and museums, in hotels and storefronts, in bars and on bridges, and even in the river that runs through town. Visitors from around the world gather to view the art, engage in meaningful discussions, and vote for their favorite entries, with cash prizes and grants awarded to select artists in the end.

“While displaying this piece at ArtPrize for 21 days, I found that people were really attracted to it,” said Dzialo, who maintains a website to promote her art. “Especially those who had gotten infected or lost a loved one to COVID, and of course all of those with medical backgrounds.”

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During conversations about the creative project with ArtPrize attendees, Dzialo was quick to share credit with her support team.

“Health care professionals have been on the front lines during this pandemic, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how many nurses, assistants, techs and pharmacists at work helped by saving me caps. Everyone from pre-op to recovery pitched in to get me a certain color I was low on, or a special size and shape I needed more of,” Dzialo said. “Heidi Beverly would save me caps from her other CRNA jobs where they had different manufacturers and suppliers. For two years, our wonderful scrub techs saved any caps I had left behind in operating rooms and made sure I got them! And then my 16-year-old daughter Stephanie sorted everything I brought home by color, shape and size. I’m grateful for the combined support.”

While she happily accepts contributions from clinicians with access to particularly aesthetic vial caps, Dzialo also wants to give back. She hopes to eventually sell her artwork and fund a scholarship at her alma mater, Wayne State University, with the proceeds. To see more of her work, visit the gallery at the top of her personal webpage.


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