Art is on the agenda for Kingston University’s School of Nursing. Two murals depicting the everyday life of a nurse and honouring the resilience and compassion shown by healthcare workers during the Covid-19 pandemic, have been unveiled as part of the modernisation of its teaching facilities.
Sally Richardson, Associate Professor in Simulated Learning and Clinical Skills, and Jo Low, Simulation Suite Manager collaborated with local artist and Kingston University alumnus Alban Low, on their vision for the two pieces.
The artwork called A Day in the Life was commissioned during the Covid-19 pandemic and shows the diversity of the nursing profession and other healthcare roles.
“We wanted it to show all the roles a nurse can do, inside and outside the clinical setting. There are many different fields our students can go into, as well as working as a community nurse, becoming a research nurse, or even working in the army,” Mrs Richardson explained.
“We also wanted it to illustrate how nurses and healthcare professionals from all disciplines, specialities and ages came together during the Covid-19 pandemic to work as a team and get through an incredibly difficult time. This is the essence of what healthcare professionals do every day and the mural helps bring this to life,” she added.
Artist Alban Low, who studied fine art at postgraduate level at Kingston University, produced more than 120 individual drawings of cutaway buildings showing the depth of what nurses do all day, while also featuring references to the pandemic such as a vaccination centre.
“It touches on the different scenarios nurses are exposed to and the skills they use. It intends to give the viewer a behind the scenes look at what goes on in different healthcare settings – as if they are looking into the world of nursing,” Mr Low explained.
The artist took inspiration from interviews he held with Kingston University nursing students and graduates, drawing from their experiences. One student portrayed in the mural is Sophie Robbins, a mature student who worked on an elderly care ward at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, London in January, which had become a ward for Covid-19 patients when she arrived to start her first student placement.
Sophie is depicted having a conversation with a taxi driver passing by, illustrating her friendly nature. She said she was touched to appear in the artwork. “The healthcare faculty is incredibly supportive in the way that they relate to students of all ages and the level of teaching they provide is fantastic. It’s a real privilege to be a part of something the faculty has commissioned and that will be seen by so many people,” she added.
The second mural, called Healthcare in The Eye of The Beholder, illustrates the highs and lows of the profession, Jo Low explained. “We asked Alban to show the joys and challenges of being a nurse. It is extremely rewarding, but there are also moments of conflict and difficult conversations to be had,” she added.
The artist explained the different images illustrate the myriad of emotions experienced by the patient and healthcare professional. “The patient sits at the centre of the photo next to their family as a reminder that they are at the heart of everything nurses do,” he added.
Head of School of Nursing Dr Julia Gale employed Alban Low as the school’s artist-in-residence after working with him on several projects over the years. She explained how art can help with reflective learning. “We work with the artist as a way of encouraging our students to share their emotions and feelings when they have been working with the public,” she said.
“For these two pieces, we asked him to do something where they can relate to their experiences and understand that we are not just about learning on equipment, we can also use the creative arts as a way of expressing ourselves and our feelings. It gets down to the real emotions of caring – nursing involves not just the physical labour of caring, but also an emotional labour of caring,” she added.
The two pieces of art are on display in the newly refurbished Nursing Simulated Learning and Clinical Skills Centre, which offers students the chance to gain practical experience through highly realistic simulated scenarios that replicate community and in-hospital settings.
The facilities include a clinical classroom where an immersive 270-degree projection displays different settings within the hospital including an Intensive Care Unit and a Resuscitation ward. A bi-fold door has been added to the space to allow different scenarios to take place at the same time.
An upgrade to the technology has seen ceiling and mobile cameras installed throughout the clinical classrooms, so that simulations can be recorded and live streamed across to other classrooms. The footage can also be used for group debrief and recorded for students to take home for feedback purposes.
Meanwhile, the simulated ward area where role plays take place using actors and mannequins, has been transformed to include a medication room and upgraded audio-visual equipment.
Dr Gale said the centre has come a long way since its inception in 1996. “We are constantly looking at ways to make sure our facilities are as up to date as possible, so that they closely replicate what students practice in while on placement. We are delighted that our students can benefit from these enhanced facilities,” she added.