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Nurses’ Day 2018 #ThisNurse

As a “bisexual and gender-neutral person of colour”, Oliver knew what it was like to feel isolated. Here, Oliver writes about the inclusivity and compassion of the nursing community to mark Nurses’ Day 2018 #ThisNurse

In 2016, I made my first steps towards becoming an adult nurse. I travelled from my home in north Birmingham to the South Campus of Birmingham City University. I was in that state of quiet panic that is like being in the eye of the storm.

Just under a year earlier, I was moving out of my flat in Glasgow after giving in my documents to finalise leaving my Neuroscience course at Glasgow University. I had no idea what future lay in front of me, but I knew I was stepping off a path that I was not happy with.

What I wanted out of university was to know that there was an end goal, a purpose to work towards that I would find aspiration and fulfilment. I knew it was a lot to ask for, but I was prepared to overcome as many challenges as necessary to get there.

The starting point of discovering where I wanted to go with my career was listing what important principles and values I follow. I wanted to help people, which sounds cliché but there was a deep-set ambition to see a difference made by my actions. This led to thoughts on what would define my actions, and I reflected heavily on being practical and present in my work.

From these reflections, I centred my aspirations around being a compassionate and hands-on member of the community that was dedicated to working for the greater benefit of society. The final aspect I added to this was my strong desire to be part of a dynamic and supportive team, and this was when I realised I had been circling around an answer for a long time.

Flashing forward to that moment of quiet panic that I mentioned earlier; I thought about all the wrong things. I dropped out of university once, what would happen if this ends the same way? What if I freeze when I am placed in a hospital setting?

I look back now, and I sympathise with my past self, but I was overthinking it. In fact, I was being completely irrational. I knew I was going to make it work because I was already in love with the nursing profession before I started, and I had the skills and learning capacity from my earlier experiences in volunteering and life’s general chaos to adapt to new environments.

There has been a constant renewal of my earliest motivation to help people, and it always revolved around assisting vulnerable people in our society that struggle to find a voice and reach out. As a bisexual and gender-neutral person of colour, I understand what it’s like to feel isolated; so now I am open and active in conversations about how to improve the way in which we care and engage with people from all communities.

Each of our placements last around 2 months, and in all of them the most fulfilling aspect has been working with and for the immensely diverse community in Birmingham. There have been moments where I felt like a fish out of water, and others where I felt almost swept over by the flow of work. These moments for me are balanced by so many others where my skills as a problem-solver and an empathetic listener were affirmed. A new sense of self-compassion paired with enthusiastically self-identifying as a nursing nerd has changed the way I look at challenges within the working day, both in my professional and personal life. As an extra added bonus, I say with pride and gratitude that while on these placements I was made to feel a part of the team in each one.

Nursing as a profession is heavily reliant on open conversation, and if I am asked about my gender, I tell people I do not identify as a male or a female. I am biologically male, and in practice I have no problem with being perceived that way when I am in my uniform in the role of a professional. And so far, this has been and gone without any issue; positive conversations that are either short or long but do not stray into intrusiveness are what characterise the experiences I have had talking about my gender identity, sexuality, and ethnicity. The degree of compassion and team co-ordination in nursing is outstanding, and part of that is a shared belief in creating a safe and supportive environment for all.

Sufficient hints have been dropped about professional progression that I now own something that I never have even conceived of having before now; genuine ambition. I still have over a year to go before I am qualified, and whereas before I was terrified of this concept, I am currently eagerly posed to take advantage of every opportunity related to achieving this goal.

Being part of the Adult Nursing course at Birmingham City University has been an incredible ride; involvement in a research project, talking to students and their families at Open Days, being chosen to work as a cultural ambassador and helping to build a strong university community.

My mind is overflowing with ideas and plans that are short and long term, and this kind of free-flowing optimism and excitement is a reward for simply being part of something that I respect and cherish.

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