Around the world, nurses are in the thick of inconceivable conditions. Their workplaces have become warzones against a mysterious disease that has rampaged nations and ravaged lives. Daily, healthcare workers witness horrific scenes of suffering and death.
So why are they dancing? Isn’t that terribly insensitive? Flippant? Oblivious to the urgency of their office?
Such has been the response by some to social media posts of nurses having fun.
“Thoughtless,” spat one Twitter user, resharing a TikTok video of UK healthcare workers in a synchronised dance mob. They have “clearly nothing better to do”.
“This is a pandemic, not Britain’s Got Talent,” commented another.
Another user criticised this culture jacking of the famous Last Supper portrait by da Vinci.
The workers are from NHS Nightingale Hospital London, the UK’s largest hospital facility – built in just nine days with the help of 200 British soldiers to ease pressure on existing NHS facilities due to the COVID-19 crisis. They staged the dance at the end of a 12.5 hour shift.
Brands are often ham-fisted at jumping onto social media trends, and even worse at decoding millennial platforms like TikTok. Make what you will of the posting of the video itself. Criticise the marketing department if you think the optics are misaligned with the larger narrative of the NHS vs COVID-19. Certainly, criticise the hospital if any worker was somehow enlisted into the TikTok boogie against their will.
But to criticise healthcare workers for taking a few minutes out of a crushing, defeating, relentless working existence to create a space of solidarity and joy with their peers? Are they not allowed to catch a break? Are they meant to feed their imperilled mental health and burnout with only negative thoughts, frowns, tears and despair?
Having fun is how we preserve our humanity. It’s how we fight one of the most pernicious effects of the virus. It’s how we stay strong, and remember why the fight is worthwhile. Nurses have a right to that too.
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