College exhibition explores nursing history and ‘challenges’

The national chief nursing officer (CNO) for England has praised a student art project for celebrating nursing and confronting the “challenging areas” of the profession.

Dame Ruth May has visited the Nursing Narrative exhibition which was created by second year fashion and textile pupils at West Suffolk College based in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.

The exhibition, which was displayed at St Edmundsbury Cathedral, saw students design a set of scrubs and use them to communicate a story relating to the NHS and nursing.

Among the topics touched on by the students included gender stereotypes and nurses’ mental health.

Guy Harris, 19, said: “I created something around the pandemic and the how the nurses coped with their mental health.

“It’s great to be a hero but when they took off their uniforms they are also person. They must have been scared.

“At the time [during the pandemic], they were lauded as heroes and since then they have been forgotten. So, it’s nice to be involved in a project where we celebrate the NHS and nurses again.”

The project was a collaboration between West Suffolk College, the National Health Service Retirement Fellowship Lottery Heritage Community Fund and Suffolk West NHS Retirement Fellowship.

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The students engaged with retired health and social care workers from Suffolk West NHS Retirement Fellowship to help inform their art pieces.

Elaine Ramsden, a representative from the fellowship, said: “We came in to the college to talk about our lives in the profession and how it has changed over the years.

“We had a look at the exhibition and it’s magnificent. For youngsters to have the insight and sensitivity about the caring profession – I’m really very impressed.”

Charlotte Davies, course director for fashion textile at West Suffolk College, said the project celebrated the history of nursing.

England CNO Dame Ruth said: “It was an honour to meet students and discuss their artwork at ‘The Nursing Narrative’ exhibition – beautiful pieces to inspire the next generation of nurses into the NHS, all about the historic, the celebratory, rewarding and challenging areas that encapsulate our profession.”


West Suffolk College sixth form principal Colin Shaw shows Dame Ruth May around the Nursing Narrative exhibition

West Suffolk College sixth form principal Colin Shaw shows Ruth May around the exhibition


West Suffolk College student River Da Costa Gomez in the Nursing Narrative exhibition

River Da Costa Gomez’s Nursing Narrative artwork


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