Nursing and Cross-stitching: A Surprising Connection

Cross-stitching came into my life long before I became a nurse. I was introduced to it by my mother and grandmother. I was intrigued that something so technical and precise could produce something beautiful. When I was old enough to try it alone, I was hooked and proud to show off what I’d made. As the years passed, it became a hobby that gave me much pleasure. During hectic times, it provided a quiet refuge of relaxation and regeneration.  Its simplicity was its pleasant allure.

How do nursing and cross-stitching align? Nursing is a fast-paced and ever-changing occupation. There are only a certain number of hours to complete multiple tasks. There is a feeling of being pulled in all directions by those who need assistance, patients who have questions, and routine tasks that must be addressed. At times, it can be a mental juggling act.

Contrast that with cross stitching, a  self-paced activity where you control the design and speed – pressing or urgent – with no deadlines or people impatiently waiting for you to complete a task.  Your mind is solely focused on the present: selecting the right color thread and finding the correct place on your aida cloth for the stitch. Stresses of the day fade as you imagine what the final piece will look like.   From a mental standpoint, it does not compare to the urgent need for critical decision-making, a critical nursing component. Instead, it allows for a comfortable and orderly process that results in a predictable product. 

As a cross-stitching nurse, I can attest that these two activities have more in common than you might think. To be good at stitching, you must possess certain qualities that are also very important in nursing. 

Concentration and Focus

Cross-stitching requires focusing on the pattern to ensure the stitches match it precisely. Looking back and forth from the pattern to the cloth takes excellent concentration. I concentrate on one symbol or color at a time when I am stitching. That specific thread must blend with all the surrounding threads for the pattern to turn out correctly. Focused concentration and focus keep my project on track.

Nurses may have multiple patients to care for during a shift. It is essential to focus on each patient and their specific needs. Medication administration requires precise concentration. As each patient has different medications, you must ensure you give the right medications to the right patient. This requires focus and refocus if you get interrupted. With many different tasks demanding your attention during a shift, concentrating may be hard. It can be easy to become overwhelmed by the amount of work that needs to be completed. Concentrating on a single task at a specific moment is an excellent quality for nurses.  


If you’re looking for a hobby with quick results,  cross-stitching is not it. Cross-stitching is not for those who are looking for instant gratification.  The art of cross-stitching takes time and patience. Depending on how much time I can give to my cross-stitching, it may be months before I even recognize an image on my cloth. Early in the process,  my stitching hardly resembles any recognizable item. Patience is necessary for the stitched scene to develop into a discernible image. With patience, I begin to see progress, and one day, I can see that I’ve stitched the exact patterned picture. This is highly rewarding.

Nursing is a fast-paced career that sometimes requires patience in one situation and urgency in another.   Developing a practice of deliberate patience allows for a full assessment of a situation and time to focus on patients who may be lonely or scared and just need time to talk. Skills learned in cross-stitch lend themselves to enhancing quality interactions with patients. 


Though cross-stitching is a repetitive task, there are times when mistakes are made. There might be one too many cross-stitches in a specific color.  I may only realize this mistake once I stitch the color next to it. When this happens, I must retrace my steps and determine where the mistake was made. I also must decide how I am going to fix it. A couple of misplaced stitches can easily throw off a pattern. I need to problem-solve to find the error and fix it. 

Nurses are problem-solvers. We routinely encounter problems throughout the day.  The issues we encounter are multifaceted; they may be related to equipment, patients, family members, or fellow staff and may occur simultaneously. For example, an IV pump alarm may sound, a patient is non-compliant, a frustrated family member demands attention, and a staff member is difficult to work with. In each situation, the nurse must ensure that things get back on track. Cross-stitch has helped me to translate some of my habits, such as problem-solving, to my nursing work.  


I can’t say that cross-stitching is responsible for giving me all the skills needed for nursing, but it has helped me develop some practical skills. It allows me to detach from my work and focus on something that is relaxing and renewing. When I return to nursing, I am energized and ready for the day.   I’m thankful to my mother and grandmother, who taught me such an enjoyable craft.

Holly Stout


Share this post

Nurses International is a non-profit entirely focused on helping nurses obtain the education and the support they need to make a difference in developing nations worldwide.

We connect colleges and institutions with experts who can take their nursing programs to the next level. We help establish new nursing programs where they’re needed most. And we eliminate the barriers that stand between students and education.



Privacy Policy & Terms of Use

Nurses International is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit.
EIN: 46-4502500