Las Vegas, Leonardo, and Learning – One RN’s Trifecta

July 2nd, 2012


By , BSN, RN

Have you ever been to Las Vegas? My answer was always "no"—until last weekend.

At the height of the summer (thermometer says: 110 degrees) I found I had a free airline ticket that was about to expire. Had to go somewhere and there were seats available to Sin City. All I can say now, in retrospect, is—WOW!

Everything is Vegas is over—overheated, overdone, overeating, over the top. We gambled (won a little, lost a little), we gawked (at all the people, the hotels, the food) and we had a great time.

Hanging over my head however, was this need to find something to write about for this blog. I thought maybe a bartenders’ review of cures for the common hangover, but there are no common hangovers in Las Vegas.

Then, I thought, maybe the hotels and casinos have their own in-house healthcare providers. You know, for emergencies (like heart attacks in the casino or massive indigestion from all the buffets masquerading as a heart attack) but that didn’t pan out either. Security everywhere is CPR trained and they call 9-1-1.

I’ve already covered sunburns and heatstroke this season at Notes From the Nurses’ Station so I was quickly running out of ideas. And then I saw it, a chance to learn something on the ultimate pleasure seekers vacation and it even applied to nursing education—sort of.

Leonardo Da Vinci

If you will be in Las Vegas before October 15, 2012, “Da Vinci—The Genius,” at the Venetian Hotel is a must see or maybe make that a must experience. It is a multimedia exhibition about the works of the Italian artist. There are a few of his actual folios, mock-ups of his inventions you can touch and spin and twist, and even an elaborate breakdown of photos addressing why the "Mona Lisa" has no eyelashes.

We all know Leonardo Da Vinci was a genius, the actual Renaissance Man. He played music, he invented flying machines and drilling rigs we still use today. He may have invented the bicycle. He painted several of the most famous paintings in the world ("Mona Lisa" and "The Last Supper"), and he provided us with some of the first intricate lessons in human anatomy.

That’s right, the drawings we study today, our knowledge of muscles and tendons and joints really first started with Da Vinci. He helped to invent modern anatomy studies.

His formal training in the anatomy of the human body began with his apprenticeship to sculptor and painter Andrea del Verrocchio, who insisted all his students learn anatomy. As an artist, Da Vinci quickly mastered topographic anatomy, drawing many studies of muscles, tendons, and other visible anatomical features.

Later, as a successful artist, he was given permission to dissect human corpses at a hospitals around Italy. From 1510 to 1511 he collaborated in his studies with a doctor in Padua. Leonardo made over 200 pages of drawings and many pages of notes towards a treatise on anatomy.

Leonardo drew many studies of the human skeleton and its parts, as well as muscles and sinews. He studied the mechanical functions of the skeleton and the muscular forces that are applied to it in a manner that prefigured the modern science of biomechanics. He drew the heart and vascular system, the sex organs and other internal organs.

Vitruvian Man

Da Vinci is also the creator of one of the most recognizable figures in healthcare, used for artwork on textbooks (my anatomy text), as art in hospitals and doctor’s offices, and even as a logo for a variety of companies from pharmaceuticals to software. It is the Vitruvian Man.

The pen and ink drawing, depicting a man fitting his body to a circle and a square by adjusting the position of his arms and legs, is probably the most famous drawing in the world.

As described by artist and author Robert M. Place, “Vitruvius was an ancient Roman architect who wrote a series of ten books on architecture – one of the few collections of books of its type that survived into the Renaissance. In the third volume, which is on the proportions of temples, he states that these buildings should be based on the proportions of man, because the human body is the model of perfection. He justifies this by stating that the human body with arms and legs extended fits into the perfect geometric forms, the circle, and the square.”

Encyclopedia Britannica Online says, "Leonardo envisaged the great picture chart of the human body he had produced through his anatomical drawings and Vitruvian Man as a cosmografia del minor mondo (cosmography of the microcosm). He believed the workings of the human body to be an analogy for the workings of the universe."

The Vitruvian Man has also been appropriated as the image of the perfect physician, and the ideal in the practice of medicine. According to one researcher, "Metaphorically, [the Vitruvian Man] may also symbolize the three essential attributes of a 'complete' physician – science, humanitarianism, and artistry."

"A 'complete' physician must be a master of science; it is the apex of the art, yet science alone is incomplete and insufficient. A physician serves humankind, not science. Science is the apex, the how (means), and humanitarian service is the foundation, the why (ends) of the art and practice of medicine."

While I know this definition has been applied to physicians, it is not a bad description for nurses, in this day and age. Our practices have become more and more based on the science of healthcare and we were already recognized for humanitarian contributions in caring for the sick and injured. The art of nursing is built upon such things as wisdom, compassion, effective communication, and respect for human dignity.

Facebook Comments