Retracing Intensive Care

Designing a way for intensive care clinicians to express their experiences of caring for patients during the Covid pandemic.

Royal Brompton Hospital in Central London has long been a centre of excellence for respiratory illness. When the Covid-19 Pandemic struck in 2020 Adult Intensive Care found itself inundated with new very ill patients. They had to dramatically increase the number of patients they treated and the number of beds available for some of the the sickest patients in London. All the staff involved in treating severe Covid-19 illness have had to work long hours, in full PPE, over many months. Many of the patients they treat remain sedated and it can be a traumatising and lonely job, with few opportunities to share and express what people are going through.


No More Heroes was approached by the Royal Brompton Arts team to devise a way for people in the hospital to share what they have been through. The aim of the Covid Stories project is to use creative methods as a way of eliciting accounts from clinicians, patients, support staff, cleaners, and porters among the many people who have played a vital role in ensuring the highest possible standards of care. We started with Adult Intensive Care and spent a day with over 40 clinicians including nurses, physiotherapists, dieticians, and educators.


The ideation we did for this project involved exploring the types of materials we could use to uncover the hidden personal Covid stories of the AICU. We were provided with over 100 images taken on the ward and wanted to find a way to expose what was not shown; the thoughts, feelings, opinions, and emotions of the people depicted.

We started with the idea of writing over the images using UV ink pens but realised the words were not clear enough when seen in UV light. Next we tried laying sheets of tracing paper over the images and writing over the trace with coloured pen. This was a more promising direction and we eventually found that writing with white pen worked well to evoke the notion of an invisible emotional layer.


We designed and delivered a workshop in a communal room inside the hospital adjacent to the intensive care wards. We spent over 13 hours talking to people and then inviting them to write down their thoughts over an image they had chosen. We found that framing the activity as a creative activity as opposed to a therapeutic encounter helped people to feel that they were not being observed and they could feel free to write whatever they wished. The feedback we received indicated that this was a welcome and much needed opportunity for expression in the form of conversation, listening and writing. We have plans to continue the work at Royal Brompton Hospital and are exploring the possibility for a national expansion of the project.