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New Westminster exhibition offers first-hand look at the lives of front-line nurses

Through the Nurses' Lens opens at the Amelia Douglas Gallery at Douglas College Feb. 1
Nurses Lens
The images in Through the Nurses' Lens offer a glimpse into the lives of front-line workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The new exhibition opens at the Amelia Douglas Gallery at Douglas College Feb. 1.

It's been nearly two years since the Amelia Douglas Gallery at Douglas College shut its doors in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, it's reopening those doors with a new photo exhibit that offers up a first-hand look into the lives of B.C. nurses working on the front lines.

The gallery, which shut down in March 2020, is presenting Through the Nurses' Lens, running Feb. 1 to May 3. A press release from the college notes the exhibition features photos and quotes from 12 nurses, acutely capturing the realities of delivering health care amidst a public health crisis – right down to the lines left on a nurse's face by an N95 mask.

The content comes from a "photovoice" research study led by two Douglas College nursing instructors, Ruhina Rana and Nicole Kozak, along with Aggie Black, director of research and knowledge translation at Providence Health Care. A community-based qualitative method, photovoice documents and analyzes participants’ daily experiences through dialogue and self-taken photography.  

Like the exhibit, the study explored the lived experience of front-line nurses throughout the pandemic. 

“Researchers were investigating the virus and how it affected the public,” Rana said in the release. “But we wanted to explore how the pandemic was affecting nurses on the front lines, physically and psychologically. How were they being supported?” 

Their study found that, while some of the participants’ photos and dialogue focused on resilience and hope for the future, they also felt great fatigue. Nurses expressed frustration with delays in communication from leaders and the government, and they struggled with burnout heightened by lack of staff and resources. 

The study’s results reaffirmed how important it was for the public to see the pictures and what the nurses had to say, said Kozak. 

“You don't want research to sit quietly on someone's desk. It should change something in, and for, the community,” said Kozak. “It's essential for people from all walks of life to come experience what these nurses have felt. Our hope is that people throughout the region who see these photos will stand with us in advocating for greater support from the government for nurses and others on the front lines, leading to better working conditions in the sector.” 

Jacci Wintermans, Douglas College’s arts events officer, says Through the Nurses’ Lens is the first of many thought-provoking exhibits that visitors can look forward to in the coming months. 

"After two years away, it is a privilege to reopen the Amelia Douglas Gallery with such an insightful, timely exhibit,” said Wintermans. “Once again, we will provide a space full of opportunity for our region’s brightest artists to share work that resonates with the greater community.” 

There will be an opening night reception Feb. 1 at 5 p.m., including an artists’ talk at 7 p.m. In accordance with COVID-19 protocols, attendees must wear a mask as well as present proof of vaccination and ID. The exhibit closes May 3. 

The Amelia Douglas Gallery is on the fourth floor north at the college's New Westminster campus, 700 Royal Ave.

Follow Julie MacLellan on Twitter @juliemaclellan.
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