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An intensive care nurse has photographed the emotions and experiences of colleagues working on the front line of the coronavirus pandemic to reflect the “mounting pressures” staff were under.
Emily Gilhespy told Nursing Times that she decided to spend her breaks from an acute intensive care unit to capture photographs of fellow nurses, because she wanted the public to “understand the severity and the impact” the outbreak was having on nursing staff.
“There is an element in my photos where you can see that seriousness of the mounting pressures”
Ms Gilhespy, who works at Wythenshawe Hospital, part of the Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, started her photography project at the beginning of the pandemic.
Her plan was to have the images displayed publicly as part of an exhibition once it was safe to do so.
Before taking a picture, Ms Gilhespy would ask her colleagues to think about their job and how it made them feel.
The collection of photographs, therefore, showed the raw emotions felt by nurses working to save the lives of those with Covid-19, she explained.
“I wanted to record this experience of the nurses so that people could understand the severity and the impact that this was having, not just on the people who were the patients, but the people who were looking after these individuals,” Ms Gilhespy told Nursing Times.
“They had to put aside their own worries, and concerns, and they had their own personal issues still going on, but they still had to go into work under extremely challenging conditions.”
The pressures of being a nurse had “escalated phenomenally” because of Covid-19, she added.
To mitigate the impact of the pandemic, the hospital had expanded its intensive care services to neighbouring wards.
But the team “did not have enough critical care nurses to look after the number of intensive care patients” it had.
The job of nurses had been difficult before the coronavirus, but the fact that they had also been stripped of their “normal coping mechanisms outside of work” because of the national lockdown, made things even harder, noted Ms Gilhespy.
“I tried to capture either my colleagues that were doing something or I would capture a picture where their faces would drop,” she explained. “I would ask them to think about their work.”
She added: “Nurses are incredibly resilient human beings. I think that the job is difficult anyway, but you have your normal coping mechanisms outside of work, which would be spending time with family and friends, and that was stripped from you.
“And then you had to still be working in even worse conditions and I think that is reflected on people’s face that in some of the photos.”
There was an “element in my photos where you can see that seriousness of the mounting pressures” nurses were under, noted Ms Gilhespy.
“But I also hope it is a testament to the resilience of these people, because they absolutely did stand up to the challenge, and they did incredibly so.”
Pictures by Emily Gilhespy: