Updated: Oct 5, 2022
Buckle in. This post reflects upon an emergency hospital admission I had, lasting 5 days on ward. I am safe and well and this is because of the following heroes.
I am recovering now, so working from memory that is serving me reasonably well but is not perfect.
The below represents, statistically, those who formed my care team from A&E arrival through to discharge - its importance will become apparent by the end. (You’ll have to forgive me where my medical terminology is a little off). I’m also going off how staff introduced themselves to me as to their preferred gender association.
One Triage nurse - black male who, fun fact, shares my exact birthday.
Three Initial Assessment (IA) doctors - all women covering different shifts, one woman of ethnic minority and two white. One was a student doctor who made impeccable patient-lead decisions the whole way through.
Two IA nurses taking vitals - both women of ethnic minority.
Radiology - two women of ethnic minority.
One sonographer - white woman.
Two male porters - one black, one white. The friendliest gentlemen!
Two nurses acted as porters for me in a particular moment of crazy under resourcing - one BAME woman, one white (an example of many where my care staff went well beyond their job role).
Once transferred to ward I had:
Four respiratory consultants - two white men, one man of ethnic minority and a white woman.
Three midwives. All black women. One in particular came to visit me on two separate days when she was not working, to ensure all was well.
Two acute ward nurses - both black women.
One anaesthetist - woman of ethnic minority.
One pharmacist - woman of ethnic minority.
Two obstetricians - one woman of ethnic minority, one man of ethnic minority.
A second year doctor - BAME woman who undertook the most spectacular cannula care I’ve ever had, which is no small feat.
More nurses than I could count and as they keep an eye on you round the clock I’m sure I’ve missed some. From those I do remember, all women. One white. Let’s earmark it at four days on this particular ward, 12 hour shifts, that’s 8 shifts with a nurse for each = 8 women, let’s say 7 of ethnic minority.
That’s 35 different members of staff over 5 days that I have good memory of. Some I got to know well as they had multiple shifts during my stay.
Of the 35, that’s 28 women (80%), 22 women of ethnic minority (63%). If we include the men, 77% of my care staff were from minority ethnic backgrounds.
These are the staff I remember clearly, in what was a busy (and sometimes traumatic) few days. There are also the heroes that cleaned my ward space every morning and brought me three meals a day. All women.
And those that will have stripped, cleaned and sterilised my space once I left in preparation for the next woman they’ll care for. When awake, I saw this happen for other bed spaces - each time it was one, sometimes two black women when they could spare the extra hands.
Our lovely gentleman who kept on top of refuse and clinical waste - of ethnic minority, as were all the security staff that kept staff and patients safe.
All of these humans played a vital role in my care and were truly wonderful and compassionate in the way they undertook their responsibilities.
In a TUC report, women are noted as essentially working for free for 56 days this year. Ie from 6th November - 31 December. Rephrased, they can expect their first pay day of the year to be on 25th February (as of 2022).
“In health care and social work jobs, where the gender pay gap is 18.3 per cent, the average woman waits 67 days for her Women’s Pay Day on Monday 7 March 2022.” - that’s 11 days additional to the average (and ironically the day before International Womens’ Day).
That’s 80% of my care staff that are expected to essentially be working for free from 26th October (in three weeks time).
According to the latest NHS GPG report, “Black women were paid 93p for every £1 paid to White women” so 63% of my care staff will be working for free as of even earlier this month. (My recovery brain fog prevents me from doing the exact maths on it).
Every NHS employee that crossed my path not only safeguarded me and protected my physical health, they provided pastoral care that was vital to my full recovery, all whilst being woefully under resourced - both in staffing and facilities.
If you’re an employer or an employee in or outside healthcare, I urge you to engage with the Fawcett Society’s Pay and Progression of Women of Colour report. It’s the least we can all do.
From their executive summary:
“Women of colour are almost invisible from positions of power across both public and private sectors. They are overrepresented in entry-level and junior positions and virtually disappear the higher up we go into management and senior leadership. This does not happen in a vacuum – it is the result of structural racism and barriers faced at each stage in a woman of colour’s career pipeline. The barriers experienced generate a cumulative impact and result in the erasure of women of colour at the highest levels.”
Whether it’s at leadership level or entry level, whether it’s jobs that keep the economy turning or roles that literally keep us alive - it’s ever so important we’re cognisant and actively engaged with these significant and structural imbalances, especially at a time like now.
(I’m looking at you, Truss et al.)
I won’t have got this personal reflection perfectly right, in tone or statistic I suspect, but it has been an incredibly poignant experience - and one I felt it important to share.
These humans will forever have my gratitude.
Edit 05.10.22 : Update on terminology - following review by friend and ED&I Lead, Rochelle Dalphinis, this post has been updated to replace 'People of Colour' with black or of ethnic minority as appropriate. This is to better reflect the BAME communities referred to in my post. I am always open to constructive criticism and welcome thoughts and discussion on the above. Thank you, Rochelle.