Mapping Black Futures: What was your motivation to work in the healthcare sector?
Khadra: It has always been a long life dream of mine to be a paramedic. As a child I would see an ambulance drive by and I could just imagine myself as the driver rushing to help someone in need. Not knowing the risk factors, I just viewed them as heroes and knew that was my calling. Unfortunately, as I grew older I decided to take the “safe route” and change visions to work with those in the developmental sector. This career choice was not intentional. I just knew it was my destiny to help those in need and what better sector than those who have physical and mental limitations.
Over the years I completed my education as a Developmental Service Worker (DSW), working closely in Dual Diagnosis. After a few years as a DSW I realized that I had hit the ceiling and knew there wasn’t room for any advancement. Due to the fact that this position fell under the Ministry of Social Services rather than Health, my scope of practice was incredibly limited. It wasn’t hard to shift gears and work towards a career change into Nursing. I’ve recently decided to go back to school in order to accomplish this next milestone in my life.
What has been your experience as a Black person in this space? How has your identity affected the ways in which you navigate at work?
Working in the healthcare as a black woman I find that we are very much misunderstood. When it comes to being assertive and vocal about certain situations, others misinterpret that to be aggression. Being a black woman we have this stigma which unfortunately follows us everywhere. Having this negative perception prevents myself and others in my situation to properly be heard when advocating for patients or even for staff. Others at times have taken what I’ve said out of context because they interpreted it in a different tone. I’ve now learned that when I need to address critical and sensitive issues, to send it through email rather than in person. Having to use this method, I find that I’ll have documentation to fall back on if necessary. It’s unfortunate that it has come to this, however I feel that being a black woman in a white male dominated system, I would have to go to certain lengths in order to maintain my integrity and position.
Tell me about your proudest moment at work.
My proudest moment I would have to say is working with a client who others gave up on and pushing them beyond anyones expectations. There was a specific client I worked very closely with who for decades others believed his capabilities didn’t exceed anything beyond arts and craft. When I took on this client I realized early on that he was filled with aggression and only knew how to express himself through loud screams, profanity and physical outbursts. Over time I worked closely to help this client enhance preexisting skills and find tasks in which he used to enjoy. This particular client had not only developmental disabilities but also mental limitations. After two years learning his likes, dislikes, capabilities and background, I learned a small fact which would help me in shaping his future. The client grew up on a farm and worked with his foster parents to maintain the crops and livestock. I decided to write proposals to local community gardens and later on got approved for 1000 square feet of land. I used this opportunity to start a community garden for this client and others like him. They had the opportunity to grow and harvest their own goods which later were sold at farmers markets. The profits which were raised turned into revenue so that they could purchase whatever it was that they wanted. For the first time in years, my client was working and not only with his peers but amongst others in several communities. This was truly the definition of social capitalism.
Do you feel as though there are adequate resources in place to support Black wellness, physically and mentally? What does that look like for you?
I have yet to see any resources which cater specifically to black wellness whether that is mentally and physically. When we require the support there really isn’t anyone to turn to aside from our fellow colleagues, friends or families.
In your opinion, what can the government do to support the physical and mental wellbeing of Black folks in Canada?
I believe the government can implement mandatory support groups which cater to the black community at every job. Having this would provide myself and others like me to have a safe place where we can go and feel supported and speak freely. As much as we can all sit here and hope that race isn’t a big deal in a work place, it is! As a black woman I feel as though were misunderstood and misheard.
How do you take care of your own wellbeing? Are there programs in place to support folks in your profession?
Truthfully speaking I make sure to spend as much time with family and friends. From going to social gatherings to just having people over, I use my personal time to detach and disconnect from work. At first it wasn’t easy but I learned early on that it was not healthy to take on things which were no longer my issue after I’ve clocked out from work. I’ve also mastered the word no!