What’s your current job role?
I’m a nurse in a London hospital
What brought you to E4BN?
Over a long period whilst working in an NHS hospital, I experienced bullying and harassment which escalated to an actual physical assault by my white line manager. I heard about E4BN through a friend who had heard about E4BN’s work in standing up for Black Nurses.
Before contacting E4BN, did you approach another union for help? And were you happy with their services?
I informed my existing union (at that time) about the bullying and harassment which escalated to an actual physical assault, however, the white union representative told me that he didn’t view the assault on me as racism and he didn’t take my concerns about my wellbeing seriously. Subsequently, I was unhappy with their services and decided not to use that union and I contacted E4BN. From the moment I called the E4BN support line and spoke to the friendly nurse, I felt safe and was reassured that they knew what I was going through. The E4BN triage nurse I spoke to explained that she knows what it’s like to be in the same dark place as me and the feeling of being trapped and gaslighted. The nurse explained that E4BN deals with racism and discrimination cases every day, and they have a unique and specialised service in place that will help nurses like me process what is going on and stand up against racism.
What was happening to you at work that made you want to look for advice?
I reported the physical attack to the Head of Nursing and I made it clear to the entire department that I didn’t feel safe afterward. I raised an internal complaint, however, nothing was done by my employer.
Things became progressively worse. Every working day I was fearful of what the white line manager might do to harm me next.
I started to suffer from panic attacks, flare-ups of IBS, anxiety and was diagnosed by my GP with depression. My internal complaint of physical assault was not taken seriously and although the line manager admitted to holding me against my will and assaulting me, my internal complaint was swept under the carpet.
The white line manager did not receive a sanction and she continued in her senior position as if nothing happened. What was even more distressing is that she continues to work in this London teaching hospital to this day free to continue her racial bullying and harassment.
I (without doubt) do not believe that a Black senior nurse could physically assault, bully and harass a white member of staff, get caught, and walk away without a sanction, punishment or referral to the Nursing and Midwifery regulator (NMC). There has been no accountability.
Were you able to talk to anyone at work about the impact and emotional distress you were going through?
No, there was no real support for me. There are the Speak Up Guardians within the organisation but they are white and did not get it or understand which part of my situation made the assault racism. They listened to my concerns but had no power to take any action or progress my complaint. Being heard is not the same thing as being understood. Thankfully, E4BN understood what I was going through because all the members have experienced racism and all have been through similar experiences. I was able to talk about my painful experience during E4BN’s weekly Zoom session that takes place every Tuesday at 9 pm. It’s a weekly support group for people of color that work in health and social care where we can openly talk about our experiences of racism and discrimination. During Zoom, we are reminded that no one should make us feel that we can’t speak up about what we’ve been through, because we can! Racist colleagues make us so traumatised that we believe that we don’t have a voice, we often believe that we can’t speak up about racism and that what we’ve been going through is our fault. Black nurses get told they are calling a race card or we're accused of having a chip on our shoulders. These are all lies. E4BN doesn’t normalise silence about racism, they expose it.
It’s great to hear from nurses who, with E4BN’s help, have become empowered and have made it through to the other side of racial bullying. E4BN gave me hope and I have come out stronger. E4BN has encompassed a very supportive and nurturing group, and supports you to follow the next steps to take if you’re dealing with race discrimination. You will not find this level of holistic, unique support in any other group!
How has the racism you’ve experienced impacted you physically and mentally?
Racial bullying has left me suffering from anxiety, panic attacks, worry, and depression which I now take medication for. Racial trauma contributed to the demise of my marriage. Racism towards black nurses is real and hurtful when white colleagues try to tell you that you’re making things up, "it's just a perception", or accuse us of being too sensitive. It's not nice to be denied opportunities, targeted, profiled and bullied due to negative stereotypes about Black Nurses and BAME people as a group. This is our lived experience and it affects us every single day.
How did E4BN help you with your case and what was the outcome?
There’s so much that I’m thankful for! E4BN supported me by helping me to demystify the situation, being an advocate, attending meetings with me, writing correspondences, and providing me with emotional support through their Support Bubble. E4BN encouraged me from the beginning and eventually, they helped me to leave the toxic and discriminatory working environment. E4BN also helped me heal from the trauma brought on by racial bullying and discrimination.
How has E4BN supported you?
In the early days, the thought of what I went through would always cause me to break down and cry. It was a very difficult time. I had flashbacks, panic attacks and sleepless nights. I was in a state of dissociation due to the shock of being assaulted by my line manager who I looked up to and had respect for. I even found it challenging to describe what had happened as my mind tried to shut it out due to the heightened fear that I experienced. This was a very difficult time for me.
E4BN members helped me to reground and become present with my surroundings. They helped me to write a comprehensive account of what happened, I was provided with an E4BN therapist who supported me with counselling and everyone within the team has been amazing. I don’t know where I would be now if it wasn’t for E4BN. I am more confident and I’m in a much happier place than I was when I first joined. I am hopeful for the future, obtaining justice, and moving on with my life and that’s something I didn’t have before I joined E4BN.
I will continue to recommend E4BN to others because it’s an organisation that can relate to any matter about race discrimination and our weekly Zoom meetings create a safe space to enable nurses to share their ordeals with other members. E4BN knows how to handle situations when they arise. We need E4BN. Your case or journey of discrimination is no less important, each one is as important as the next one. Long live the organisation.
Has there been an opportunity for you to support others?
I am now an E4BN trained Support Bubble lead (SBL) which is a role that has been developed to provide support for new members. The Support Bubble lead helps nurses who have experienced discrimination to heal and this in turn helps them to come out stronger with a good strong network around them.
To join the support Bubble our E4BN trained nurses will first do a holistic triage assessment with our new nurse. Our triage system uses a unique assessment tool that will help determine the best way we can support the new member. Equality 4 Black Nurses is a nurse- led and we aim to advocate for the needs of Black, Asian and ethnic minority nurses who face discrimination and prejudice in the workplace.
Our Triage system is specific to E4BN and focuses on race discrimination and helps us to identify discrimination and quantify the impact and trauma to the Nurse. Using this information enables us to create a unique, bespoke plan to support the new member with employment, regulatory or other issues where racism is at the centre. This service doesn’t exist anywhere else!
What is the most important thing that you’ve learned from E4BN?
E4BN has taught me to take one day at a time. The E4BN team was there for me and helped me to take control of my own life, stay focused and make future plans which are achievable. I am now in a new job, seeking new opportunities and living my best life as the great nurse that I was born to be.