What is your current role?
For the past 2 years, I have been head of nursing at Evelina London in surgery, theatres and anaesthesia. Together with the clinical director and general manager, I'm responsible for managing the surgery, theatres and anaesthesia directorate. Evelina London is organised into 5 clinical directorates which have their own management teams. I help to set the strategic priorities for the directorate and I'm responsible for the nurses who look after children who need surgery.
A key aspect of my role is being a clinical leader. I grew up in Jamaica, migrated to America and then to the UK. This has given me vast life and cultural experience. During my childhood I was expected to achieve by my family and community. Education was considered extremely important when I was growing up in these countries. You were honoured for your achievements through recognition and praise from strangers, as well as from a proud family. I didn’t see any barriers to having a career except for talent and poverty.
I previously believed that access to education and progression was more to do with wealth or connections, rather than skin colour. My perspective has changed and I can now see how the constructs of society can mean not everyone has equal access to health and social care or to education. I recognise how environment and organisations influence our outcomes.
I studied nursing in the UK because I was passionate about caring for patients. This passion came from my experiences with how cultural beliefs and poor healthcare systems can influence our lives. I didn’t have a leadership career plan. I didn’t realise how important it was for the younger Black generation to see someone like themselves in positions of authority.
I didn’t realise the impact that my role as head of nursing could have on others. Since my starting my new role I recieved a social media comment from someone I don’t know and have never met that still resonates with me: “grain by grain we break the ceiling”. While becoming head of nursing was an achievement for me, it became apparent it was also an achievement for my community.
In your new role, what have you learnt over the past year?
In the last year I have and will continue to learn. I have learnt about the positive and negatives of being seen as successful. As a reflective practitioner, I have and will always learn vicariously as well as from my own experiences. Additionally, my biggest learning goal is to do more leadership listening.
I want to focus my learning on equality, diversity and inclusion, especially on the impact of leadership. I aim to respect differences and recognise the importance of everyone’s contribution in building a more inclusive future.
What have you found challenging in your role?
I recognise the expectations that others have of me are, at times, at odds with my values and even my responsibilities. I have found it challenging at times not to feel judged or misunderstood in a way I feel others aren’t. Sometimes it is assumed I am present because of diversity instead of my merits, and therefore I feel I need to prove my credibility. I actively promote equality, diversity and inclusion as it is very important to me. As a Black woman, equality, diversity and inclusion is business as usual, not a project or yearly objective.
I also find it challenging that I sometimes have the skills and competence to help others, but not the right resources.
The thing I find most challenging is feeling the need to prove myself.
What is your favourite part of working for Evelina London?
In the last year, this has not changed. I still love the 'can do' attitude and that we’re able to make change. I feel that the teams I lead have a positive attitude to getting things done and done well.
It can be challenging to keep pushing on in hard times and I want to recognise how difficult times have been.
What is your passion?
My passion will always be developing people into the best versions of themselves. I like seeing people and teams grow. I spot a little bit of talent or potential, and I’m there. It’s my favourite part of the job. Everyone plays a vital part in my team, no matter their role, and I try to instil this culture in the people I work with. I see these qualities in the staff I have mentored, who are now actively developing their teams.
My other passion is children having the best care as close to home as possible and helping staff to deliver this. That is why I was so proud when we opened the new children’s day surgery unit which will help us to treat an additional 2,300 children per year.
What is your proudest moment?
I have so many proud moments of working at Evelina London. I was proud when Snow Fox ward opened because it allows our local children with long-term conditions requiring an intervention to have less disruptive lives. I'm also proud of the new children's day surgery unit. I'm proud when the children leave the hospital having had excellent care. As a mum and a nurse, I still feel very proud to see my daughter continuing to succeed as a nursing leader, as she followed my career path. I'm also proud to say that a number of staff members that I have mentored have also become senior nursing leaders.
How are you inspiring and helping future generations?
By being present in my role! By advocating for fair policies and strategies that enable access for all. By listening and truly understanding what has the most negative and positive impact on our staff, especially those with a disability or other inclusion and protected characteristics. By implementing fair recruitment policies and supporting others to do so. Through being honest when feedback needs to be given and not shying away because of fear of fitting in or fear of being seen as not being onside. Developing better understanding of others and being a role model.
I'm an inclusion agent and part of the Evelina London equality, diversity and inclusion group. In the last year I have been involved in a stop knife crime campaign as a panel member alongside others, including the police, fire brigade, local government and community leaders.
What would you like to change going forwards?
I feel passionate about equal access to education for all and less poverty. It saddens me that staff who choose to care for our patients as a career, are not able to eat properly and heat their homes.
What does being part of Evelina London mean?
Being part of an incredible Evelina clinical leadership team is very important to me. Recently I have seen changes that excite as well as scare me. Evelina’s leadership team makes be proud to be a woman, and more importantly a global majority woman.
This year’s Black History Month theme is 'saluting our sisters' and I'm proud to part of a leadership team where our Chief Executive is a Black woman and a clinical leader. Gubby Ayida I salute you and look forward to Evelina’s future under your leadership.
Thank you to the children and young people who have so brilliantly illustrated our blog pages.