In this episode we hear about the experiences of Rich: a critical care nurse from Manchester. They are a proud member of the LGBTQ community and identify as non-binary.
Rich begins by talking about the experience which encouraged them to join the NHS. Their grandmother had dementia and had been nursed by Rich and their mother. Eventually it was necessary to admit their grandmother to hospital and Rich was struck by the way the nurses cared for her. They knew at that moment that they wanted to be able to provide the same care for others.
Being an LGBTQ nurse has not been an easy experience for Rich, however. It has often brought them into situations of conflict and prejudice. They reveal that there are patients who have refused to be treated by them due to the way they identify; they also talk about the homophobic comments and jokes that they have been subjected to at their workplace. In Rich’s own words: “you’re going into work to look after patients and treat them with dignity and respect but sometimes the patients don’t deliver that behaviour back to you as a practitioner”.
Rich relates a particularly memorable experience of prejudice they encountered while out with their friends. They describe themselves as being dressed androgynously in part male and part female clothing when they were spotted by a fellow colleague. The colleague threatened to out Rich as being a transvestite and made them feel ashamed in front of their friends. The fact their colleague was himself gay was particularly stinging. According to Rich, “there is a lot of phobia within the LGBTQ community” something they describe as “shallow, hypocritical and spiteful”.
Reflecting on their experiences in critical care during the pandemic, Rich talks about how they’ve seen their colleagues suffering due to the extra pressure of having to forego breaks in order to try to keep on top of the growing cases. Those growing cases have inevitably involved more deaths; however, Rich talks tenderly about an experience with an LGBTQ patient who was due to get married to her partner. Having Corona Virus, her situation was deteriorating and it was clear that she would not survive, yet, she wanted to celebrate her love with her partner before she died. So the nurses assisted in providing a ceremony for her and her partner in the care ward. They arranged bedding and decorated the room and brought in the patient’s favourite colours and flowers. They dressed her in her own clothes and make-up and provided her with perfume. The ceremony turned out to be among the final moments of her life. Rich and their colleagues had allowed her to die with dignity.
Talking about the critical care ward, Rich describes it as “volatile, intense, traumatic even” but they also say that “it brings a lot of happiness… It’s the safest place that a sick patient can be. We are very lucky to be able to offer them very personalised nursing touches that don’t necessarily happen on a ward.” In our potential hour of need, I feel we should regard ourselves as lucky that Rich and their colleagues are here to take care of us.
Also, if you’re a medical professional who is looking to work in the UK, and you need to pass either IELTS or OET, go to www.swooshenglish.com .