Art workshops help NHS heroes escape pressures of pandemic

04 March 2021

Art workshops help NHS heroes escape pressures of pandemic
Sue Burgis has played a critical role in the fight against Covid-19. As Deputy Chief Nurse at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, her role has involved preparing staff to be redeployed into critical care, providing guidance on how to use personal protective equipment (PPE) and planning the launch of two mass vaccination centres in the local community.


At times the pressures have been immense – but Sue has drawn strength from an unlikely source.

“Art has been a fabulous escape for me,” said Sue, a participant in our regular staff workshops.

“It’s helped me to get through tough periods at work. Some days I can’t wait to get home and carry on with a painting I’ve started.”

What do the workshops involve?


Sue is just one of the many NHS staff at our hospitals who have taken part in regular art workshops during the pandemic.

Led by Rhian Sutcliffe of creative arts organisation Paper Birch, the fortnightly evening sessions take place virtually, over Zoom, enabling staff to get involved with art from the comfort of their own home.

Each session explores the work of a famous artist, introducing a wide range of techniques and giving participants the chance to try out different styles.

For Sue, who studied art at school and enjoys visiting galleries in her spare time, the workshops have rekindled her passion for creativity and helped her take her mind off the pressures of the pandemic.

"Art has become my life now - and it's all because of the workshops."

Sue Burgis, Deputy Chief Nurse

“Some days have been extremely challenging and it’s been very stressful, but with art you can get completely absorbed in whatever it is you’re doing,” said Sue. “I really look forward to the workshops.

“I was already interested in art and I try to get to the big exhibitions when they come round, but I didn’t always have the spare time to explore my own creativity; the workshops have sparked my interest again.

“For some people who have never done art before I’m sure it’s inspired them to take it up from scratch. For me, it’s relit that fire. Art has become my life now – and it’s all because of the workshops.”

100% of staff said they would recommend the workshops to a colleague..png

Can patients take part too?


The staff art workshops are part of our Creative Links programme – a series of virtual arts activities we’ve introduced to help everyone stay creative despite the restrictions of lockdown life.

Since April 2020, we’ve hosted 20 staff workshops which have been attended by over 60 NHS workers.

Alongside activities for staff, we’ve also organised lots of workshops aimed specifically at supporting patients during their time in hospital, including everything from music and dance to poetry and creative writing.

We’ve also made many arts activity videos available for free on our website so that anyone can take part by watching along at home in their own time.

You can read more about the Creative Links programme here.