ICU Nurse/Photographer Documents COVID Frontlines at UAB

ICU Nurse/Photographer Documents COVID Frontlines at UAB

During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, many hospitals tightened restrictions on visitors and who could access certain areas. This meant that no photographers, videographers, or others could visually document what was happening inside COVID-19 intensive care units.

However, one UAB Medicine nurse answered the call and provided Birmingham, Ala. and the entire nation a rare look at the front lines inside UAB Medicine’s COVID ICUs, which included the Medical Intensive Care Unit, the Cardiac Care Unit, the Trauma Recovery Unit (which opened in mid-2020 on the Hospitalist 3 unit), and the Neurosciences Intensive Care Unit.

“Some of us were talking in the command center, and what we really wanted to do was showcase all of the great work and challenges our nurses, staff, physicians, and providers were doing every day at the bedside,” says Amanda Chambers, MSN, a senior director of Nursing Services at UAB Medicine. “They asked if I could start taking some real-life shots of our staff working in our COVID areas.”

Chambers says having a nurse taking pictures really made it a seamless process.

“I blended into the background, and I knew what they were doing, so I was able to help highlight what they wanted,” she says. “We wanted the public to see the frontline battle against COVID.”

Chambers recalls her first impressions of the COVID units.

“I think the first real experience for me was that it was extremely complex,” she says. “It was hot and it was uncomfortable with all of the appropriate protective equipment on. But the other thing that I saw was really a sadness for the lack of any family involvement in those areas. When you went in there, it was really just to help your team there with those patients, and those can be some of the scariest and most intimate moments.”

Although she has been a nurse at UAB Medicine for years, having a barrier verbally and visually was a stark reminder of the situation she and her colleagues were in.

“I can only imagine what our patients are seeing,” she says.

Chambers became a window to the world in late 2020 when her photos were featured on ABC’s “World News Tonight With David Muir .” She says her colleagues were excited and thankful that millions were able to get a glimpse into daily life at UAB Medicine.

“My co-workers have been really thankful and proud that our profession was highlighted on a national level,” she says. “The nation has been able to see behind the curtains into our COVID units and what it is really like for patients and ourselves, so they definitely have been very excited and energized when they’ve seen themselves or a colleague or someone they know on the national front being highlighted for the care they deliver.”

View some of Amanda’s photos here.

Nursing Side Gigs: Working as a Photographer

Nursing Side Gigs: Working as a Photographer

This is part of a monthly series about side gigs—nurses with interesting side jobs or hobbies. This month, we spotlight a photographer.

Boxter and her family
Credit: MB Photography

By day, Shannon Lynn Boxter, RN, works as a travel nurse at Duke University Medical Center, in the COVID ICU and at the University of North Carolina in their Cardiothoracic ICU. But in her spare time, she captures beautiful images of clients through her side gig—a photography business.

Boxter got started with photography when she was in nursing school and needing a creative outlet. Armed with a small digital camera, she began experimenting on shooting at different angles. “I guess the bug bit me then,” she admits.

At the time, she offered tons of free shoots. When she graduated from nursing school, she purchased her first semi-professional DSLR camera.

Credit: Shannon Lynn Photography

Her photography business, Shannon Lynn Photography , was started as a passion project. “I wanted to document my friends and family. However, I was so intrigued with how other photographers captured beautiful images that I wanted to know more,” says Boxter. “I taught myself everything I could about lighting and shooting. I offered my services for free and was a second shooter for photographer friends. I learned so much! Most of all, I have been perfecting my style and who I want to be as a photographer for the last six years.”

As for the type of photography she does, Boxter says she identifies most with photographing families and couples. “Anything that has a promise of an adventure is something I’m interested in documenting. I think the process of finding your style is very complex and directly tied to who you are as an individual,” she explains.

While she’s mostly self-taught, Boxter enjoys learning and continuing her photography education. She says that she still gets excited at each shoot because she knows that she’ll be providing her clients with lasting memories.

Credit: Shannon Lynn Photography

“It renews my faith to see a baby being born or a couple so in love during an engagement shoot,” she says. And even a young family member seems to be following in her footsteps. “My little boy, who’s almost four, has developed an interest in taking pictures and he now has his own little digital camera. It’s adorable to watch his eyes light up when he captures something new.” 

“I love the creative freedom photography allows. I feel free when it’s just me and my camera. I find it a challenge to capture the in-between moments and identify as a lifestyle photographer; I give prompts and let the moment be what it is,” says Boxter. 

There’s another reason that Boxter loves photography. She also fosters dogs through Cause for Paws. “A good photo of a rescue dog is so important for future adopters to see,” she says. “I really enjoy being able to use my photography to help these dogs find forever homes.”