2021 – Project
Researcher and Lecturer in Health and Life Sciences, Coventry University
Researcher and Lecturer in Emergency Care, Coventry University
We’re humans not heroes: the experiences of healthcare workers during Covid-19.
Thresholds is the first piece of Audio Artwork created as part of the Humans Not Heroes project, which follows on from the successful pilot where Boats on an Ocean was premiered in 2020 as part of Coventry Creates. In 2021 we want to keep these important conversations going and will engage with even more healthcare workers to create four new audio artworks collaboratively with award-winning artists Caroline Horton and Rochi Rampal and Charlotte Bickley, Sound Designer.
Dr. Sally Pezaro: Researcher Impressions
Looking at the lives of healthcare workers through the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, this project explores their ‘human’ experiences – in contrast to the public and media portrayal of them as ‘heroes’.
The audio artwork is the representation of the stories, experiences and emotions of eight healthcare workers from Coventry and across the UK, gathered during an online creative workshop. From this, we identified seven themes, including the theme of the ‘hero’ narrative. While some might consider the label of ‘hero’ as praise, many of our healthcare worker participants explained that it sometimes caused feelings of guilt. A shift in focus is needed to recognise the emotional and physical toll for individuals. Adequate support is needed to help healthcare workers find meaning in their experiences.
Our aim is to raise awareness (to policy-makers and the general public) of the real experiences and challenges that healthcare workers have faced during this period. We feel our workshop approach has the potential to be evaluated for its evidence-based benefits on healthcare worker wellbeing, and we plan to pilot it in larger groups.
We wanted to provide an opportunity for healthcare workers to express their experiences of working through the pandemic, explore these in a creative way and capture their narratives as humans and individuals, rather than ‘invincible heroes’ – Kerry Wykes
If, after listening to this audio recording, you need to talk to someone about your experiences or someone you care about, there is advice and emotional support available from The Samaritans www.samaritans.org or call 116123 for free advice.
If you are a healthcare leader or manager, and want more advice on how to support your team, go to: www.supporttheworkers.org or contact us if you would like to use this resource with your healthcare team.
Please contact Researcher Kerry Wykes firstname.lastname@example.org for more details on the project, or if you would like to use the audio resource with your healthcare team (we are developing resources for this purpose) or to register your interest in future workshop opportunities. We are interested in hearing audiences responses to the piece, please tweet us using #HumansNotHeroes.
China Plate Theatre
Andrea Pieri Gonzalez, Ed Collier, Susan Wareham, Izzy Taylor
On an evening in late Summer 2021, we got together with a group of healthcare professionals, to talk of, and listen to, their experiences of living and working through a pandemic. We met on further occasions across Autumn and early winter as, together, we created Thresholds.
These creative workshops were small moments in time really, in the grand scheme of this pandemic. But they were extraordinary. Our conversations weren’t held whilst in the depths of a national lockdown, but rather at a point in time where the participants were able to reflect on their experiences with both hindsight, and also with a close-up lens on everything happening here and now. We talked of trauma, fear, isolation, relentless work and exhaustion. And we talked of forming bonds in difficult times, of hope, and we talked of compassion.
Thresholds represents a range of what some people have been through, and are going through, and it is unique because of that particular group of people that came together to share their own experiences of caring for people in this pandemic. But, and this has struck me as the most notable thing, the group wanted this to speak for everyone who has been working in the caring profession during this point in history – because there is a need to be heard, and these are their voices. – Rochi Rampal
- Writer and Director | Rochi Rampal
- Sound Designer: Charlotte Bickley
- Co-creator & trainer | Nick Walker @nwalk7
- Psychologist | Dr. Liz Sparkes
- Producer | China Plate – Ed Collier, Susan Wareham and Izzy Taylor
- Funded by | The Rayne Foundation & Winston Churchill Memorial Trust
- Ethical approval granted by | Coventry University
Age guidance: 12+
Content Warning: This piece contains themes of mortality and illness and is based on real life testimonies from front line NHS workers during the Covid 19 pandemic.
You can download the full script at the bottom of the page.
Instructions for listening
The piece is emotive, it is designed to be an intimate listening experience, so we suggest you listen to it somewhere quiet, ideally with headphones. Dr Liz Sparkes (Mindfulness & Compassion at Coventry University) recommends these three steps to release tension and engage with feelings of wellbeing and compassion, before/during or after your listening experience:
- 1. Notice what is happening around you. Allow yourself to acknowledge what it is that is happening that is disturbing you. Not trying to change it in any way. Perhaps label it.
- Locate where the experience is felt within the body. Where do you feel the discomfort in the body? Perhaps the sensations are in one area, or possibly across several sites. Just notice.
- Begin to breathe into the area where the tension or discomfort is felt. Moving out of the mind and into the body. Just direct the breath into the area that feels tense, bringing a sense of softening. Also placing a hand on the heart area will bring a softening and soothing to the difficult experience.
With thanks to the healthcare worker participants whose stories were fundamental to the creation of this piece and who are co-creators of this work.