Candid photograph of Nottinghamshire nurses showing the pain and grief of working in critical care goes viral

A photograph shared online this week has provoked a reaction from people around the world, as two exhausted nurses console each other during a shift on the Critical Care Unit at Sherwood Forest Hospitals.

Friday, 29th January 2021, 9:57 am
Updated Friday, 29th January 2021, 9:59 am

Jill Kirk and Karen Colbeck-Rowe, nurses working on the King’s Mill Hospital critical care unit in Sutton-in-Ashfield, sought comfort and support from each other and their colleagues following an intensive, tiring and demanding 12-hour shift looking after some of the sickest of patients with Covid-19.

Jill, an experienced critical care staff nurse for more than 20 years, said: “The photograph captures exactly how I was, and still am, feeling during this pandemic; it shows so many emotions.

“We have been working in this environment for nearly a year.

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this photo of Karen Colbeck-Rowe (left) and Jill Kirk has gone viral

"We are exhausted, but that doesn’t mean we will stop caring for people who need us the most.

“Nursing is my passion, but it has been the hardest year in my career, both physically and emotionally.

"Being, and seeing your friends and colleagues in full PPE for hours, feeling upset, worried, anxious and frightened has made us become closer as a team more than ever.

“During this particular straining and difficult night shift, I needed a hug with someone who understood."

Pre-covid, there were nine critical care beds; currently the hospital is nearing three times its capacity.

Patients receiving critical care are often on ventilators, unable to move from their beds because they are sedated or do not have enough energy or oxygen to move.

Some patients have pre-existing conditions and are elderly.

However some, pre-covid, were fit and healthy.

Karen, a team coordinator, has also been working in the hospital’s critical care unit for more than 20 years.

She said: “This photo encompasses and reflects the united bond we have throughout the nursing profession, and I know it will resonate with many.

“The teamwork on the critical care Unit at King’s Mill has been emphasised massively, on a scale like no other, over the past 11 months.

“The patients have been the sickest we have cared for on a level never experienced before, with the unit nearing three times over capacity.

“To see the exhaustion, fear and tears in the eyes of my 'work family' as we work tirelessly to give the best care and treatment to the sickest patients, whilst supporting each other, is beyond empowering.

"The compassion, love and understanding we have for each other keeps us strong through each shift and enables us to keep fighting through the most challenging time of our careers.

Holly Beacroft, a fellow nurse at King’s Mill, took the photo after seeing the emotional hold from her colleagues, and knew that it demonstrated exactly how her colleagues at Sherwood, in the NHS, and across the globe feel after supporting the Covid-19 response for almost one year.

She said: “By sharing this image, I hope members of the public and the local community see the hardship, exhaustion and emotion endured by all NHS workers during the pandemic.

"I urge people to follow the rules around staying home, social distancing, hand washing and wearing a mask.

“We will always be here to care for those who need the NHS, but please do not put yourselves, your relatives, friends or my colleagues at any unnecessary risk by not following the rules.”