‘Portraits for heroes’ – artists paint Western Sussex staff for national COVID-19 project

Tuesday June 16, 2020

A national project to immortalise in pictures many of the NHS professionals working through the Covid-19 pandemic has seen dozens of Western Sussex colleagues painted for posterity.

The #PortraitsforNHSheroes campaign became an Instagram hit after artist Tom Croft painted an A&E nurse in full PPE as his way of giving something back to the health service.

As the project grew, the public was encouraged to put people forward for portraiture and the trust’s head of clinical governance and patient safety enthusiastically embraced the opportunity. “This became quite a thing,” said Jo Habben, who began spending her evening nominating her colleagues for pictures.

Others also joined in and the Western Sussex gallery has grown to include more than 50 members of staff! A selection is printed on pages 3-4 and Jo’s portrait by Jane French also features in a national virtual exhibition of just 15 paintings in the Fitzrovia Chapel.

“Online galleries and exhibitions are popping up and there is a great deal of public and media interest. Ordinary people going about their jobs, suddenly thrust into the spotlight, bemused by the ‘hero’ tag and continuing, as they always do, to provide the best care under challenging circumstances,” said Jo.

As part of a trust social media campaign to celebrate the new staff gallery, the subjects are being asked to reflect on both the challenges and highlights of recent months.

Nationally and internationally, these paintings are being looked at as part of our NHS history

Lead nurse for infection prevention, Sharon Reed, said: “Most challenging has been work life balance. And as a team we have had to overcome frequent, almost daily changes in guidance, especially early on.”

Director of resilience, Jeanie Baumann, agreed about the very long hours and difficulties early on, but added: “I have been blown away by how amazing and innovative our staff are and how they have all come to work and taken on this challenge. It is unbelievable and I feel terribly proud.”

Senior clinical educator, Netce Sia, said: “One of the uplifting moments for me is our colleagues adapt really well. We see them unselfishly helping each other during these unprecedented times.”

The Portraits for NHS Heroes project remains open for nominations. Two large pieces featuring the trust’s Critical Care teams are yet to be completed. Jo said: “Thank you to all the artists I have got to know over social media who taken the time to make these beautiful artworks. So many different styles. We all love them!”

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