Inspiration from the Front Lines
Meet Sara Morris, BSN, RN, RN-BC, a Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital veteran of 17 years and a trusted member of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
Normally, Morris uses her gift for photography to capture memories of her children. However, as she and her ICU colleagues faced the long marathon of fighting COVID-19 on the front lines, she started bringing her camera to work. Since late 2020, Morris has been documenting the brave faces of the Sentara Martha Jefferson ICU.
“Art can be a positive outlet for a person’s feelings, and taking photos has been a good way for me to deal with the pandemic,” says Morris, a mom of five children between the ages of 2 and 14. “Starting this photographic journey to document the faces of my colleagues has helped me process what we’re going through. It’s been a difficult time for all of us.”
Morris joined Sentara Martha Jefferson in 2004, and since has worked primarily as a medical surgical nurse. After spending two years as a Cath Lab RN, she joined the ICU in September 2019.
When the third COVID-19 surge hit the area after Thanksgiving, Morris decided to honor her colleagues through photographs. The pictures are not just of doctors and nurses—they include a wide range of team members, from Physical Therapy to Environmental Services and everyone in between.
Morris’colleagues have been excited to share in her journey, and she sees these photos as a way to help boost morale during trying times.
“When you take pictures, you are putting memories into history. To me, that history is more solid than just relying on your memory.”
Shown here is a selection of Morris’photos and, in her own words, what these pictures mean to her.
I want these pictures to tell our story.
By Sara Morris, BSN, RN, RN-BC
When we saw this virus coming, it was like waiting for a wave to crash ashore. We were given the extraordinary task of keeping people alive from an unknown illness. When the rest of the world shut down, we continued to face our fears every time we walked through our hospital doors.
We continue to fight for these people minute by minute, hour by hour. It’s like a marathon at times, with no end in sight. We have seen death, life, hope, miracles. It’s been a long and sometimes arduous journey.
Throughout much of this pandemic, I had been keeping my gift of photography away from work as I fought in the trenches alongside my fellow nurses in the ICU. In our first hit from the pandemic, I created wooden plaques to help lift everyone’s spirits, but I started feeling like I needed to do something more personal. Finally, as we hit a third surge, I decided that it was time to honor my co-workers with my gift of photography. I want these pictures to tell our story.
The faces of our ICU are filled with years of experience, youthfulness, and some just starting or getting out of nursing school—all of us working with these patients day in and day out. Respiratory therapists are the wizards of the ventilators, sometimes changing settings several times a shift. As they change their settings, we tweak our life-saving drips. It is a yin-and-yang relationship. The doctors and nurse practitioners here are abreast of the most up-to-date recommendations and so receptive to input from the rest of the team. Our team runs like a smooth ship sailing through choppy waters.
If only people could see what our eyes have seen. As we wear our masks, we are faceless, unknown, the unsung. Throughout it all, we have clung to love, hope and faith. This is what keeps us coming back. We see people, not the virus. We listen, connect and learn as we navigate this storm. We are hopeful as we pioneer the first rounds of the vaccine.
Frontline worker after frontline worker, we voluntarily roll up our sleeves to protect our families, neighbors and communities. This is one part of our history we will never forget.
To see Morris’blog and more photographs, visit tinyurl.com/ ssm-icu.