Compassion, the life blood of the NHS

We are here for you 24/7, in your darkest, most vulnerable and weakest moments.
We are the holding of a hand to show you we are here through it all. 
We are people who make porridge at 4am for that eight-year-old boy whose beloved
granddad just died and was in need of distraction. 
We are the first people you see when you wake up after surgery and tell you it all went
We are the ears who listen to that 90-year-old lady recite from memory her favourite poem
perfectly because no family comes to visit. 
We are the eyes you show your wounds to which we dress without batting an eyelid.
We are the assistants who help you learn to walk again, and who motivate you to try again
after failing.
We are the people who make you a cup of tea after you find out the child you were
carrying will never be born alive.
We are the carers who shave you when you can’t, so you look smart for your wife even in
your hospital bed.
We are the staff who learn to sign their name so they can communicate in a way you
We are the staff that turn up every day and see so much. In this neverending battle we still
try. A little compassion goes further than you may ever know.
We are the NHS.

by Sarah Quinn

This week we are very pleased to share a poem by a nursing student at Oxford Brookes, Sarah Quinn. At a moment when the National Health Service is being given more attention and under even more pressure than usual, it’s great to be able to hear from someone like Sarah who is able to reflect on the challenges and rewards that come from working in the NHS. We’d like to thank Sarah for sharing the poem and send our grateful thanks also to all health workers for everything they are doing during such a difficult time.

‘Compassion, the life blood of the NHS’ is copyright © Sarah Quinn, 2020. It is reprinted by permission of the author. 

Sarah Quinn is a second-year Master’s student in Adult Nursing at Oxford Brookes and lives in Oxford. In addition, she is a nursing assistant – a role which she thoroughly enjoys. She also a keen interest in art, especially how this can be used as a medium for mental health promotion. She is an avid photographer with an eagle eye for seeing the beauty in the everyday. 

Sarah writes: ‘The prompt for writing this poem, ‘Compassion, the life blood of the NHS’, was a call to arms by an artist who wished to roll out an art project putting up posters in staff break rooms across the whole of the NHS (you can find the artist on Instagram: @notestostrangers). He asked for inspiration of what it was like to work within the NHS and why we do what we do.

At the end of a very busy, stressful and emotionally-tolling twelve-hour shift I was walking home mulling over my day (nearly in tears). In this moment of reflection I started to write on my phone to remind myself I am there for those patients and how lucky I am to be surrounded by such amazing colleagues.

Now more than ever the NHS is a symbol of hope and needs to be protected. I have personally looked after patients suffering with COVID-19 and seen both sides of this pandemic: the pressure that this puts on family, friends, businesses and people’s way of life. So for people out there reading this, know that your everyday sacrifices are making a difference on the front line. Together we can get through this and a little compassion goes a long way.’

You can find out more about nursing at Oxford Brookes here.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.