Portraits for NHS Heroes
With much of the world in lockdown, and an ever increasing focus on the ‘frontline’ workers, and particularly the NHS, many people have been left wondering how they will adapt and work differently.
For artists, lockdown has been a particular challenge, with their galleries and studios closed to the public and art fairs and exhibitions cancelled. Social media has been where many have turned for collective support and inspiration. The brainchild of portrait artist Tom Croft, #portraitsfornhsheroes was started and quickly gathered momentum. Artists could advertise on their Instagram account, using the ‘portraits for NHS heroes’ hashtag and healthcare workers could team up with an artist who painted their portrait for free.
Very soon, Instagram feeds were full of artists sharing their incredible work. I looked on with envy as I was too busy at work to participate but enjoyed seeing an ever increasing gallery of work – visors, facemasks, scrubs, doctors, nurses, support workers, radiographers, physiotherapists, paramedics, porters- the portraits were really capturing the moment.
Before long, I really couldn’t resist but decided to pick my own ‘NHS hero’ – my privilege I reckoned for being a nurse and an artist!
I approached my colleague, Mr Joel Dunning -a brilliant cardiothoracic surgeon- as I was so impressed by his inspirational response to the pandemic. Joel had quickly realised that, with his routine lists cancelled and high numbers of patients expected in critical care, it was nursing hands we were likely to be short of. Critically ill patients in intensive care require a 1:1 nurse patient ratio, and with plans to expand out critical care capacity to unprecedented levels in response to the developing pandemic, our nursing resource was going to be stretched to breaking point. Therefore, Joel put himself forward to receive training in critical care nursing and started his gruelling 12 hour shifts in full PPE.
I was so inspired by Joel’s willingness to do whatever was required and his brilliant leadership. Luckily, he was up for the challenge and bravely supplied me with some photos to work from.
It never meant to turn out as a ‘three in one’ portrait – my most ambitious to date- but hopefully it tells the story of a surgeon during a global pandemic who takes on the role of nurse. It did involve a few late nights to complete the work, but hopefully the result has been worth it.
What a brilliant role-model – thank you Joel!
The original picture will now hang in our STRIVE Academic Centre at the South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to not only remind us of healthcare during these unprecedented times, but also to inspire our future generation of medical and healthcare staff.