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In this spotlight article we are shining a light on Common Call grantee, Equality 4 Black Nurses.
Many Black and Ethnic Minority nurses have long experienced racism and discrimination in their work, with conversations of their experiences typically shared in private. In 2019 it was reported that 17 per cent of nurses experienced workplace discrimination and racism, from their manager, team leader and sometimes colleagues. This percentage rose by 1.3 per cent from the previous year and has been on the rise every year (WRES 2019 & 2020 report).
As infection rates of COVID climbed throughout 2020, along with the rapid rate at which people were being hospitalised, many nurses stepped forward to help contain the virus. From student nurses being drafted in early to assist as well as retired nurses, numerous heroic healthcare professionals put their own lives at risk in order to save the hundreds of thousands of lives endangered by this little understood virus. Shockingly, many of these selfless professionals were on the receiving end of vile racist abuse from patients and internal discrimination, while risking their lives on the frontline.
Within the wider nursing community there has a been an overwhelming response to the racism and discrimination experienced by nurses prior to and during the pandemic, with many completely fed up with their treatment. In response to this maltreatment, as well as the George Floyd murder and the subsequent Black Lives Matter movement, Neomi Bennett set up Equality 4 Black Nurses. The registered Nurse Practitioner founded the organisation in 2020 to ‘bring about positive change by lobbying employers and government to reduce and eradicate racial discrimination in the healthcare sector.’
Neomi tells us: “Although there are equality, diversity and inclusion measures in place within the NHS to protect nurses and patients from racism, unfortunately it seems that those people who are in charge of NHS departments lack the knowledge, expertise and insight to recognise what racism is and its impact on the individual.
Equality 4 Black Nurses has discovered the uncomfortable truth that “racism within the NHS has become embedded within the organisation’s culture and normalized so much that racist behaviours such as microaggressions, gaslighting and bullying has become part of the British healthcare institution.”
The percentage of nurses who have experienced racism and discrimination while caring for the sick during the pandemic has yet to be officially documented, but individual experiences are being reported constantly via social media and through anecdotes told in group chats. One such example is that of the daughter of a nurse, who two months ago tweeted a screengrab of racialized language used by a hiring practice nurse towards her mother. The tweet has been liked over 51 thousand times and has generated thousands of comments of support for her mum, as well as people with their own stories on how racism in the NHS has impacted their own lives. One student nurse tells of her experiences of racism from not just patients but also her lecturers.
Commenting on the incident, Neomi says: “We need accountability, and we would like to see the nurse who was responsible for the written content to be struck off the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register and for her employers to sack her without notice for gross misconduct. They pose a risk to Black patients and in a nursing environment this could prove fatal, as their actions could be the difference between life and death for a Black patient. The measures the NHS needs to employ to protect Black nurses is to allow Equality 4 Black Nurses to deliver our tailored training package, which considers unconscious bias, microaggressions, cultural awareness and Black nurses lived experiences.”
The support that nurses such as Neomi and institutions like Equality 4 Black Nurses provide for their fellow professionals is vital, offering a safe space for nurses to share their experiences. It is essential that as a community we continue to support Black-led organisations which look after and care for those who take care of us. It is why we continue to support Black people with lived experience of key issues like this so that they can continue to tackle issues that shouldn’t be part of their working lives.
We are proud funders of Equality 4 Black Nurses and we look forward to the deeply rooted impact they will accomplish in the years to come.
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