Jessica Ennis: the new face of nursing?
Jessica Ennis was the face of the Olympics but could easily be adopted as the face of nursing.
Just as there are fascinating parallels between the NHS and the Games, the qualities of Britain’s best ever heptathelete can be seen in nursing.
As she was overtaken in the 800 metres by her towering Russian and Austrian rivals we could see how - comparatively - small she is and her fragility was suddenly exposed. That fragility was, of course, literal when broken bones in her foot prevented her running in Beijing, but could be glimpsed during the two days of the event as she had to hold her concentration and maintain composure during a variety of seven athletic challenges under the dual burden of a nation’s adoration and the scrutiny of opponents, all of whom were looking for the tiniest signs of frailty or weakness.
Yet, just as her rivals breezed past her, she found something deep in both her guts and psyche, driving forward to break the finishing time and leaving her competitors trailing in her wake.
It’s that compelling mix of fragility and strength that gives Jessica Ennis her real beauty - something much deeper and more meaningful than the face advertisers will be queuing to plaster over billboards across the country.
They’re the qualities that make those who do that unique combination of things known as nursing so special - the heptatheletes of healthcare. Their skills and emotional labour often take them to a fragile place but require great strength. They are often dwarfed by others in the healthcare field, not least the doctors who seem always to hold the upper hand. Indeed, it’s the willingness to keep going in the face of apparently overwhelming odds that is a thing of great beauty.
London’s Olympics also had its parallels with the world of healthcare. The unhealthy spectacle of wholesale sponsorship and the fiasco of the private security firm, G4S, who had to be bailed out by the public sector in the form of the army and police. The NHS continually outperforms a private sector biting at its heels, seeking greater profits from government contracts and cuts in funding to the public sector. But, ultimately, when we recall the Olympics, we’ll think of Jessica Ennis and the host of fantastic athletes who showed us of what it is like to give everything in pursuit of something you believe in - just as so many patients and their relatives remember nurses.