Nursing student demonstrates Etch-A-Skillz

Nine-year-old Madeline Skillings stared at her reflection in the dark airplane window. Although they had only been en route to Hawaii for an hour, it felt like days. She wiggled restlessly and poked her mom sitting in the seat next to her, asking for something to play with. Reaching into a bag, her mom pulled out a small, red rectangle with a gray screen and two little white knobs. For the next several hours, Madeline drew picture after picture on the new toy. Before she knew it, she was getting off the plane. She came out of the gate with something very special under her arm, her first Etch A Sketch.

Madeline, now in her third semester at the BYU College of Nursing, has built up her Etch A Sketch skills throughout the years to become a great artist. She is mentored by Christoph Brown (the world’s fastest Etch A Sketch artist), and just this summer became the brand ambassador for Spin Master, a toy making company.

Although Madeline can also draw and paint, she loves the Etch A Sketch because of its simplicity. “I think that today there are a lot of things competing for people’s attention,” she says. “Typically, those are things that dazzle and excite you. I like being able to make something beautiful that draws attention away from touch screens towards something that’s really basic.”

Despite challenging classes and clinicals, Madeline still likes to Etch A Sketch on the side. She has a YouTube channel and Instagram account to showcase her artwork. Madeline always shakes the Etch A Sketch after she finishes a piece, so most people only ever see a picture or video of her art. For Madeline, this temporary aspect of Etch A Sketch art is beautiful.

“People get so sad when I shake it,” she says. “But I tell them I think it’s beautiful that it doesn’t last. You can’t preserve it or hang it on a wall, so you have to enjoy it in the moment. Every piece you make is truly original, then it’s gone, and you can’t re-create that ever again.”

Although being an Etch A Sketch artist hasn’t played directly into her nursing career so far, Madeline has learned several lessons that have helped her become a better nurse.

“You definitely learn patience because Etch A Sketching is something that doesn’t come easily at first,” she says. “It takes work to master and it’s not always fun, but it’s so worth it when you finish.”

It’s the same with nursing: not every experience is fun. It’s hard work, and sometimes you have to keep reminding yourself of why you do it. But, every once in a while, you have a moment where you think, ‘Ah, this is why I’m doing it’, and you see why it’s worth it. For me, it’s typically when I’m with a patient and I’ve been able to do something small that’s made their day better.”

Click here to watch a time-lapse of Madeline’s drawing for the College of Nursing.

Published by BYU Nursing

Guided by the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we exemplify the Healer’s art by: leading with faith and integrity; advancing the science of nursing and healthcare; promoting health and wellness; alleviating suffering; and serving individuals, families, and communities. The mission of the College of Nursing at Brigham Young University is to learn the Healer’s art and go forth to serve.

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