NHS staff find their superpower with the help of the Army

An arts project at Bicester Community Hospital has enabled staff to explore what they think is their secret power is. Being bossy but fun and having positive helping hands were just two of those revealed.

NHS staff find their superpower with the help of the Army

A twelve-hour static bike challenge by the 1 Regiment Royal Logistic Corps (1 Regt RLC, Fijian Community), St David’s Barracks in Bicester has led to staff at Bicester Community Hospital finding out what their superpower is.

These included: Smiling keeps me going; bossy but fun; dashing; kindness; getting stuff done; being a super listener; having positive helping hands and being organised but naughty.

These talents were captured through the medium of felt-tip pen by local artist-in-residence Tom Cross who was commissioned to capture, through art, the stories of patients and staff over three months. The project was completed last week. This was all made possible thanks, in part, to the wonderful fundraising efforts of the 1 Regt RLC, Fijian Community and for Oxford Health Charity and facilitated by Oxford Health Arts Partnership.

In July 2022 a team of eight riders (both men and women) from 1 Regt RLC set up camp outside a supermarket in Bicester where they completed a twelve-hour stint (from 7am to 7pm) of cycling during which time they completed just short of three laps of a virtual Viti Levu the largest island in the Republic of Fiji. That’s a total of around 850 miles, raising just over £1,600 for Oxford Health Charity.

Fiji had been chosen because that is where the riders come from. Staff Sergeant Akuila Bola from the 1 Regt RLC, Fijian Community said: “We chose Fiji, our homeland, as we are a very proud people and are always keen to share with those that would listen, all about our values and traditions. It is a great privilege and honour to be given the opportunity to give something back to our beloved NHS.”

With this surprise extra funding available, the staff on the inpatient wards thought immediately of ways to spend it that would benefit their patients. They requested a participatory arts project that would engage patients and boost everyone’s morale. A plan was devised to have a 12-week programme so Tom Cross could visit the wards and sit and talk to patients about their lives and draw their stories.

He explained: “I am a visual storyteller so I try and capture stories and memories that people have from their daily lives. This can be small and poetic, from the memories of the smell of your childhood home, or a favourite keep sake.

“It was wonderful to talk to the staff about what they thought their superpower is and there were some particularly memorable examples such as ‘a little bit of sunshine wherever I go’, ‘smiling keeps me going and organised but naughty!’ It really encouraged positive feedback within the team, with some wonderfully supportive discussions on what members of staff think each other’s superpower is.”

Staff Sergeant Akuila Bola from the 1 Regt RLC, Fijian Community explained in more detail their motivation for their gruelling ride: “We the 1 Regiment Fijian Community are a very tight knit, robust and socially interactive group. This attribute derives from our upbringing back home, hospitality and putting others before oneself has always been a cornerstone of our Fijian tradition. It goes hand in hand and is in harmony with the Values and Standards of the British Army.”

“We are extremely grateful to the 1 Regt RLC for their heroic efforts” said Julie Pink, Head of Charity and Involvement. “We fund hundreds of projects each year that enrich the lives of our staff and patients but none of this would be possible without the generous donations and fundraising efforts of our local community. Everyone has been so positive about the stories and superpowers project so we hope the 1 Regt RLC can see what difference their fundraising has made.”

Patient feedback was also very positive:

“Tom’s visits make me feel happy, I look at the drawings all week and they help me remember.”

“It’s marvellous. It opens your eyes to something new, it’s a stimulant, he teaches about colour, it’s so positive.”

Feedback from staff: “Our patients have loved this project as they like the engagement.  Staff are so busy, but we love to see them participating and that they can revisit their memories.”

“[The artwork] helps when they have visitors, it’s a real conversation starter and gives them something to talk about. Some give the drawings to their relatives as a gift.

All the artwork produced will form part of an exhibition at the Mill Arts Centre to celebrate 75 years of the NHS in July.

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Published: 24 January 2023