This has been the hardest time ever. I feel that my head is going to explode.
My feet are walking, not with a pace of haste but with a foot drag because what is the point? It is like going through the doors of no return. My hands are moving but just enough to make sure I can pay my bills.
I can manage only at the thought of getting another pay slip.
But is that wage worth it? The workplace is dangerous. I am exposed to subtle and direct racism and discrimination from my colleagues, my patients and then there's the added danger of COVID-19 to deal with. Unfortunately I have lost colleagues and close family members from the dreaded Covid, the fear of contracting the virus is intense because most of the people who have died look similar to me, afro hair and dark black skin.
I feel my stress levels rising each time I go into the store room to replenish the PPE stores as the prospect of running out frightens me. I feel isolated in that I can't share my worries with my white colleagues because the structure of the health care organisation does not support black nurses and often times makes us vulnerable. If I have a mental health issue due to race invoked stress I have nowhere to turn. There is a risk and a worry that this could be taken out of context and I worry that I may be misunderstood and judged based on stereotypes and tropes of the strong Black woman.
Every day I put up with the microaggressions and if I so as much as mention my isolation to my white colleagues about the way they make me feel, I brace myself and prepare for a triage of gaslighting, denial and shame, What is that? The everyday pain and hurt I put up with on a daily basis in my place of work. The apathy received just makes me feel more frustrated, fed up and depressed. I have to remind myself that tomorrow is another day.
Even before I get into work I am reminded that I am often just defined by my colour black. On my way to work about to buy my morning coffee and whilst waiting patiently to be served, a rude lady joins the queue moments after me, she looks me straight in the eye and moves in front of me as she tuts her teeth and quietly says "foreigners". I say nothing.
It isn’t that I don’t care, but it's because I have had a belly full of this already and I haven’t even got to work yet. I simply remind myself that tomorrow is another day.
You get to work a few minutes late and there is a roll of the eye and the subtle whispering. The usual group of senior and junior white nurses are supported in the comfort of their groups. Often leaving me feeling like a misfit, I start my shift and as I login to my email account I dread receiving the emails demanding that I do this and that and my list of patients is so long I don’t even have time to look to the end of it.
It's blatantly obvious that my list is heavier and longer than my white colleague, who just happens to be the senior nurse now. Just a year ago I trained this nurse and orientated her to the department, I took her out and showed her the ropes and shared my knowledge and expertise with her, However, now she is the senior nurse bossing me around and talking down to me as if I am nothing other than a commodity in a institution that has no regard for me or my experiences.
In my culture I was raised to respect seniors and those with more experience because usually these people are our elders. In this instance, I know it should be me who is the senior staff nurse, i've been in the department for over 6 years and applied for the senior post 5 times.
I have attended all the courses available to be a senior and at times I have been appointed the acting senior staff nurse when the vacancy is open, however something is preventing me from securing the position and the senior white nurses in the positions to allow me to progress to a higher band of nurse have point blank refused to see me as a suitable candidate for the role. This is obvious when I look at the structure and hierarchy of my place of work. There are no Black senior nurses leading at the top and there is nobody on the interview panel to advocate for me and put in a good word that I am not just my colour.
I am a talented, able profession nurse with the skills, expertise and ability to do the job. However to some, I am just my colour Black. I simply remind myself that tomorrow is another day.
Unconscious biases, constant microaggressions, witnessing discrimination towards black and brown patients and service users, gaslighting our experiences, white colleagues disregarding my experiences of discrimination (sometimes from patients) and constantly making me feel as if I should be lucky to have a job. The day is coming when I will have the ability to fight, the strength to stand up and speak out openly about how I feel and the impact of white supremacy in an institution such as the NHS. But in the meantime, I journal and write it down. If it hurts I will write it down, if it pains, I write is down, who was there, what date did it happen, what were they wearing, what was the context of the situation. One day I may need this information. This may seem over the top and silly but is all evidence and the burden of proof sits with me now. Tomorrow is another day.
Dear Black nurse, please take care of yourself, love yourself, we are only here for a little time.
What do you want out of this life? If you make a mistake now you will have to pay for it. If you take time out for yourself use it wisely, lose some weight, spend a little on yourself, you deserve it. The day is coming when Equality 4 Black Nurses will be able to represent you. There has been a whole movement since George Floyd’s death. Maybe the NHS will get off our necks and we will begin to breathe.
Equality 4 Black nurses are fully aware that Black Nurses experience three times higher levels of discrimination and that there is clear and unmistakable evidence that staff from ethnic minorities have worse experiences at work and face more barriers in progressing their careers than their White counterparts.