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A Black Nurse's Experience of her Union Rep in Times of Trouble

Updated: Jul 6, 2021

I have been a member of one of the largest nursing unions in the country for 11 years. I often wonder if I should just cancel the membership.

My issue was not relating to race, however as a black woman and the trend of how harshly employers refer black practitioners to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). I am aware like the NMC, that my union cannot be trusted so easily. In hindsight, I know it could have been worse for me.

I contacted my union due to a serious incident at work. I was only qualified a few months, and my eyes opened at this point to the possibility that my career as a nurse could end. A doctor did not clear up after themselves, on top of inadequate equipment, a patient came to harm. Due to the confidentiality I am bound by, I cannot go into more information which could identify the Trust or patient.

"I later realised they were planning for me to be shredded".

The relative was distraught and I was removed from care immediately. The senior staff nurse wrote a statement before the end of her shift and asked why I had not. She even went as far as to ask if she could see my statement. I went home in floods of tears. I called my union and they informed me that the Trust was at fault and that I was working in an environment where equipment was inadequate and therefore, I could not do my job to the best of my ability. They informed me to submit my statement to the union first before I submit it to the NHS Trust. They will make sure it is suitable for submission. Within a few hours, they said yes it’s okay and it was written well. I wasn’t a lawyer or an expert, just a nurse that found herself in a situation through no fault of my own. I later realised they were planning for me to be shredded in court.

My manager, (a white nurse) who was aware of racism within the Trust and my experiences, wanted to meet me and see how I was and to support me. She was confused as to why I would not trust her. How could I? After the way the previous senior nurse on duty behaved - she just wanted to protect her NMC pin rather than support me. I showed my manager the statement and she was horrified that the union approved this statement. She said word for word, “if you submit this, your career is over, I heard what happened. You did nothing wrong. But if you submit this the Trust will tear you apart and that is just the beginning”.

I was stunned and speechless - I felt like my heart had dropped out of my body. My manager picked up the phone and called in a Lead consultant. This consultant has been in court representing the medical board in supporting the removal of doctors from the GMC in cases of negligence.

I spent 3 HOURS going through my statement like a fine-tooth comb. He asked me everything that happened. No interruptions and out of his own time, he drafted a statement of event. When he was finished, he called in another senior consultant colleague that had been reported about the incident and he went through it and made alterations.

"My trust in my union rep was completely shattered and I never approached the union again in circumstances of serious incidents".

My statement became factual and specific to the allegations. All the emotion was removed. I was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing and in the days later, the Chief Executive came to see us and informed us that changes had been made to the Trust.

The case closed in a matter of days, despite the seriousness of my incident. My trust in my union rep was completely shattered and I never approached the union again in circumstances of serious incidents.

This blog post is based on true lived experiences and kindly submitted by Anonymous.

We encourage black nurses to contact Equality 4 Black Nurses if you receive an allegation from your employer. We will help you to write a factual statement and show you how to demonstrate your nursing competence and skills during responding to the allegations. Oftentimes, emotions are running high and Black nurses might respond in a way that can be used against them unintentionally. As a Black nurse, people often see the worst in us, we sometimes are disbelieved and the system was not made for us. If you have found yourself in this predicament, please try not to worry, get in touch with us via our website or our social media accounts and we will support you.

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