October is Black History Month. We have been asking some of our colleagues to share their views:
Clover Fernandez – Associate Director of Finance
Whilst I was born in the UK, my parents both originate from the Caribbean island of St Vincent and the Grenadines. They met in the UK and the rest is history, as they say. My mother was a nursing sister and my father was an electrical engineer. I have worked at Kingston Hospital for almost five years. I have enjoyed working here and have had the fortune to work with and get to know many lovely people.
What Black History Month means to me
Ultimately, Black History Month is a good thing as some recognition is better than none. The occasion in itself helps to keep the topic figural however, it also infers it to be something we only need to think about once a year (like Christmas, Easter or any other holiday). Ideally, black history should be an integrated part of ‘everyday’ to reflect and proportionately represent one of the many myriad of colours that makes up our society. This will help to ensure the availability of positive messages and role models for younger generations. It is important that we all contribute and play our part to disperse stereotypical ideas and show the diversity of personalities that exist within all population groups.
It would be great to have aspirations which can be proved to be achievable because ‘someone like me’ has gone before and shown what is possible; they are the norm not the exception! All too often I find myself as the only ‘person of colour’ in a situation. With this comes the pressure to represent others and be a role model for others. So in conclusion, every day should be Black History Day (and the same for other under-represented groups).
John Chinegwundoh–Respiratory Physician and Clinical Director
I am a consultant respiratory physician and clinical director at Kingston Hospital and I’ve worked at the Trust for over 16 years.
I was born in Balham and went to school in Battersea, so I have a real affinity to the South London area and its diverse population. I trained as a doctor in Cambridge and have worked in a wide variety of posts over the years. I’ve been working in the NHS for 26 years. Working in a leadership role at Kingston Hospital is something that I very much enjoy. I am passionate about supporting and empowering as many people as possible to share their ideas, so that we can all keep looking ahead and ensure we continue to provide the best possible care for patients.
What Black History Month means to me
I think Black History Month is really important and useful for everyone, regardless of their own background. As a black person, I find it a really helpful opportunity to continue educating myself about what happened in the past and the things that we wouldn’t have necessarily learned about at school – whether this is through reading articles, books or interviews, or watching television programmes. I think Black History Month also helps to give people a real sense of belonging, a sense of pride and an opportunity to celebrate.
Black History Month feels very personal to people that share my background, as our parents and grandparents are the ones that a lot of the history we talk about relates to. My generation were the first generation with a sizeable presence to have been born here in the UK, gone to school here, and had many opportunities that our parents and grandparents would not have had.
We have fought a lot of battles in the past, but for my generation I think the most important thing now is to equip the next generation with the tools that our parents gave us – to be resilient, to pick the battles that need to be fought and to flourish, whilst not forgetting our background.
Carmel Oliver – Midwifery Sister
I was born and grew up in South Africa. I spent my childhood in Durban with my mum and dad – I was the youngest of 4 sisters. We grew up in the city and close to the seaside. I have good memories of our holidays we would go to the beach after church along the south coast of Durban. My paternal grandmother was Swazi and grandfather French Huguenot. My mother’s side was of mixed origin with Jewish and Catholic descent.
For me coming to Kingston and the UK was just great! My mum and dad were encouraging to all my sisters – they were always very supportive and encouraged me to stay in the UK. They came over when my husband and I bought our first home.
When I was a child I wanted to be climatologist however going to university was expensive. At the time in BAME communities the jobs that were available to us were teaching or nursing because they were subsidised professions. My mum’s side were all nurses and my dad’s side were all teachers. I decided nursing was the career path I would take. I do truly believe it is a calling to care for people – -it is something you are born with and even being a midwife when you are there facilitating their labour – it’s not about you but the mother’s experience. You need to be quietly there waiting and observing.
I never knew (this is a testimony to my parents) when we were growing up that we were quite poor – for me I never knew – it didn’t matter – there was always so much love and laughter during my childhood. Sometimes my sisters and I went to bed with a piece of bread and a black tea or a bowl of porridge. I only had hand me downs – for me that was not an issue I only became aware when I went to college and one of my friends commented about what I was wearing!
One of my friends said to me, they are recruiting midwives at Kingston Hospital why not apply. Sandra Hackett was head of midwifery at the time. There were seven of us who were recruited. I was dragging my feet as at that time I had just met a nice guy who is now my husband, debating whether to go but I did.
I arrived in the UK on 6 June 1998 after a 13 hour flight. An Australia midwife, Cathy Murphy met me at the front of Kingston Hospital’s maternity unit and took me to Averill House where I would be staying. Little did I know that I would be working my first shift straight away! So the two years passed… and there was still a need for midwives – they asked me to stay on so I did.
Kingston Hospital is a fantastic hospital and a fantastic place to work – there’s a real sense of family. When people ask me where I’m from even though I don’t live in Kingston I always say I’m a Kingston girl because to me that would be my place!
I grew up during apartheid. We were segregated and I didn’t know any different obviously because I grew up like that. I came from a very mixed background so we were called “Coloureds”. I see the white side, the coloured side, the black side. However, the legacy left by apartheid was one of always having a sense of fear – you felt as if you were never 100% right in what you were saying.
It took me a long time to be able to overcome that – when I look back at black figures in history the one thing that stands out about them is that they were fearless. They overcame that fear. They could use their voice. It took me a long time to get to that point where I felt I could be totally fearless and use my voice. The fear could be real or imagined. It was the legacy that by our parents/grandparents unknowingly handed down to us. I can’t speak for other people from around the world but growing up in SA it was different. I look at my nieces and nephews now who have grown up without apartheid and they are fearless because they do feel they have the ability to walk into a room and feel that they should be there and that they can say what they want to say without the fear of any repercussions.
I think that is one of the things that being a midwife of colour and from the BAME group is that I always think of my fellow colleagues coming in to the profession that we encourage them to be fearless, whether they black or white regardless of colour, coming into a new job and finding yourself they will have a fear but I know for BAME midwives that fear is inherent.
In the position I work in today I can encourage them to speak out, to overcome, strive and do the best they can in their profession – I see that as very much part of my role. Working at Kingston Hospital I have overcome that fear and I have been very fortunate working in the maternity unit to be able to be myself.
Makaita Kakomwe, Breast Nurse Consultant
I was born in Zimbabwe and grew up in Chitungwiza township. We also lived in the village during the school holidays with beautiful mountains and nature surrounding us. I went to school in the local township I lived. There was seven of us – 5 boys and 2 girls. I was the fourth eldest with our parents we all grew up in Zimbabwe. Life was basic but I had a happy time with my family and a good education. My dad was very passionate about our education.
I studied Nursing at the Harare Central Hospital in Zimbabwe and came to the UK 18 years ago when I was newly qualified nurse. It was an opportunity to come abroad and one of my brothers had already taken the step. As a result of Zimbabwe being part of the former British empire – the medical study systems we had in place were very similar to the UK.
I worked at a number of NHS hospitals before I came to Kingston this year – Manchester, Stafford where I did my adaptation for 6 months, and then and then moved to Hillingdon Hospital NHS Trust where I started my career as a Grade E nurse in the Breast/Gynae surgical ward and briefly as an acting junior sister Grade F. I had passion for working in the Breast and Gynae team and impacting on patient care. I have always wanted to advance myself within my profession and undertook my BSc Primary Healthcare.
I then worked in Ealing Hospital NHS Trust now The London North West Hospitals NHS trust as a Macmillan CNS and went on to develop and pioneer the ANP Breast role for a number of years in which I undertook studies in Advanced Clinical Practice Cancer Care at MSc level at The Royal Marsden School in affiliation with St George’s University of London and Clinical Breast assessments at Jarvis School of Radiology in affiliation with Kingston University before moving to Kingston Hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020. I work alongside the Breast Consultants Surgeons, Breast Oncologist, ANPs, Breast CNS and the extended members of the breast MDT and feel empowered to do my job. I am specialising in Breast doing roles traditionally carried out by Medical Drs in assessing breast ailments from benign to diagnosing breast cancers and OAFU leading the ANP team. It is a good place to work and feel supported with my team.
I have 2 children, a 12 year old daughter and a 10 year old son and they love travelling to Zimbabwe/Uganda. They say “Wow Mummy!” when they see the wonderful mountains and experience the warmer climate. I was more independent than my children at their current age and was more outdoor orientated than Zara and Zac.
One of my brothers lives in Northampton and the other two live in Australia. We come back and visit my family every other year as we also visit my husband’s home Uganda. My children were fascinated about their grandfather from Uganda in his travels and studies in the 1960s at Buckinghamshire College has a photo with the Queen Mother. Recently as part of my son’s school work he had to carry out some research for Black History Month about famous Black African /Americans in which he could relate with Usain Bolt Jamaican Sprinter. I was pleased to be asked to take part in BHM by the Trust.
I am very passionate about my work and the career development opportunities I have had. As a black African senior nurse I feel pleased that I can be a role model to inspire and encourage all nurses and also my fellow black/BAME colleagues to develop in their roles and careers.
My name Makaita in Zimbabwean means ‘Thank you’.
Rosemary Mukasa, Midwifery Sister
I was born in Zimbabwe and I came over to the UK in 1999 to train as a nurse. I have worked at Kingston Hospital for the last 18 years. After 3 years of practicing as a nurse in the adult general wards and ITU at Kingston Hospital, I trained to become a midwife. I feel fortunate to have a role that allows me the privilege to support women and their families through their childbirth journeys. My desire to become a midwife was inspired by my older sister who trained as a nurse and midwife back in 1989 and migrated to the UK.
I am married and a mother of three girls – 16, 13 and 10. When I am not at work I love taking regular long walks. I am also very passionate about my Christian faith and my spiritual growth is quite important to me. I therefore enjoy spending time with my Christian network connections and engaging in charitable activities aimed at making a difference in other people’s lives.
Working in the NHS, I have had both positive and negative experiences being an individual from BAME background. The negative encounters that I have had have been mainly centred on ignorance of diverse cultures by non-BAME members of staff and patients. In my experience, the lack of awareness and understanding of diverse cultures and experiences of BAME individuals contribute to people making generalised assumptions and making insensitive comments (often without harm intended) about people from BAME backgrounds.
The senior staff from BAME backgrounds whom I had opportunities to talk to about my negative experiences, which I encountered mainly at the beginning of my career and a student nurse, had the same view that staff form BAME always needed to work twice as their non-BAME colleagues or their practice efforts would not be recognised. I found this hard to accept but understood this later as I progressed through my nursing practice placements. Over the years, I have observed improvements in general understanding in diversity especially in the younger generations and the level of intolerance to discriminatory behaviours/language. In our Trust these positive changes have been made possible by the hospital executive leads who have ensured that internal BAME support programmes are in place to help address issues that staff from BAME backgrounds struggle with.
In order to continue with these improvement and bridge inequality gaps, I believe that BAME staff population need to upskill and self-develop in their areas of expertise in order to prepare themselves for decision making. This is because it is well known that there is lack of representation of people from BAME background in leadership positions the NHS as whole. I have had senior staff encourage and challenge me to take on senior midwifery roles and in the last few years I have put myself forward to undertake various leadership and management courses to help develop professionally. I completed a Master’s degree in Maternal and Child health in 2016 as part of my professional development. I am always be grateful to these great mentors and leaders; (Vanessa Cole, Beverly James and Nora Pearce) in maternity who have been a form of a vital support system and have contributed greatly to mine and many other individuals’ professional development.
I am pleased to hear about the recent developments in our Maternity towards addressing the issue of BAME inequalities. There unit has advanced plans in place to establish a new midwifery team which will specifically provide a need-focused approach for women from BAME backgrounds through the implementation of the continuity of carer model. I strongly believe that this will have a positive impact on these women and their families and help to reduce the number of black women dying as a result of complications in their pregnancy which iscurrently five times higher than white women. It is clear that there is not necessarily a single solution to addressing this ongoing concern, mainly because there are many factors that contribute to the inequalities that women from BAME encounter maternity services. However, I strongly believe that improvements in raising awareness and understanding of diverse cultures and will make significant differences in care planning and provision. Additionally, from a caregiver perspective, I believe that the BAME population also need to continue making efforts to integrate with local communities and make efforts learn the English language, for example, in-order to help break some of the barriers relating accessing to healthcare services.
In the next few weeks, I will be sadly leaving Kingston Hospital after 18+ years of working here. My experiences as BAME member of staff and a BAME maternity patient have allowed me to have enriched views on the importance of understanding and valuing diverse backgrounds along with provision of needs specific services. My experiences at Kingston Hospital is going to be invaluable to my next role which will involve leading and supporting nursing, nursing assistant and administration teams in ensuring adult patient safety. As individuals, teams and an organisation, I hope we all endeavour to continue raising awareness of the diverse BAME cultures in order to help meet their specific needs, reduce inequalities in health and help to improve health outcomes.
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