COVID-19: Boris Johnson’s nurses say praise helps raise profession’s profile

Two intensive care nurses thanked by prime minister for helping to save his life say it boosts recognition for the profession, while insisting other patients receive same treatment

Picture of ward sister Jenny McGee and intensive care nurse Luis Pitarma, who say praise for them by prime minister Boris Johnson boosts recognition for the profession.
Jenny McGee and Luis Pitarma
Picture: Shutterstock

The intensive care nurses thanked by the prime minister for saving his life say the media coverage has helped bring more recognition for the nursing profession

Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust intensive care nurse Luis Pitarma was at Boris Johnson’s side for the three nights he was in the intensive care unit (ICU) at St Thomas’ Hospital in London.

Singled out in a video posted by prime minister

Mr Pitarma, from Portugal, and ward sister Jenny McGee from New Zealand were singled out for praise in a video Mr Johnson posted after his discharge from hospital.

The two nurses became a focus of international media attention, and were thanked by Portugal’s president Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern.

Mr Pitarma, quoted in a news release from the trust, said: ‘I couldn’t really believe what was happening – apparently I’m a celebrity in Portugal now. It’s great to get more recognition for nurses there.’

Ms McGee, in comments to a New Zealand broadcaster, said the outpouring of messages from New Zealanders at home and around the world had been a boost.

'There are lives to save and a team to support'

‘The messages are adorable. There are kids telling me they want to be a nurse, families saying how proud they are. It means so much right now, people will never know how much it means. Thank you.’

However, both nurses were keen to emphasise that looking after a high-profile person was no different from caring for any other patient.

Ms McGee said: ‘To be honest, I have worked in intensive care for ten years, I’m a sister, I’ve been in charge for five years, I’ve been in stressful situations and I was not fazed by this – it was just another day at the office.’

Mr Pitarma added: ‘It’s important to me to get on with my job as normal. Other patients need the same level of care as the prime minister did. There are lives to save and a team to support.’

'Much-loved' Scottish Borders nurse dies

Family and colleagues have paid tribute to a nurse and ‘much-loved wife, mother, sister, granny and great granny’, who has died after contracting COVID-19.

Angie Cunningham worked as a nurse for more than 30 years before she died at Borders General Hospital in Scotland on 22 April.

In a joint statement with NHS Borders chief executive Ralph Roberts, Ms Cunningham's family said: ‘Angie worked in NHS Borders for over 30 years and during this time was a much-respected and valued colleague within the hospital, providing amazing care to patients.

‘She was very proud to be a nurse alongside her love for her family.’


View our COVID-19 resource centre

In other news