Mapping Black Futures: What was your motivation to work in the healthcare sector?
I can’t say I have always wanted to be a nurse. However I can say I have always wanted to be in a career where I am helping others. Like most Somalis my family fled the civil war and immigrated to Canada. I have been in Toronto my whole life, and was practically born here. In my core I was a Torontonian through and through. A trip to my motherland in the summer of 2003 would set me on the path of finding myself and my true passion for the nursing profession. I began volunteering at the Adna Adan Maternity Hospital. At first I thought it would be something to pass the time. However working with those nurses every day and watching them care for their patients was one of the heroic things I have ever seen. Their compassion and empathy was unmeasurable. They were self-less and always went above and beyond, and that’s when I knew I wanted to work in a profession where I can help and nursing was what I wanted to do. Who knows maybe I can get the opportunity to go back home and work at that same hospital I once volunteered at that one summer.
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?
I work in a mental health hospital and work with very acute patients. I have never thought I would hear so many racial slurs, but boy was I wrong. I consider myself to be a very strong and assertive person (Thanks to my mom), but experiencing verbal abuse in the form of racial slurs would get to even the strongest of people. When situations like these occur I have had colleagues stand up for me and jump in telling patients that racist comments would not be tolerated and then I have colleagues who think I should not “overreact” as patients are sick and don’t know what they are saying. In the beginning I would not reply because I did not want to be seen as that stereotypical “angry black women”, but I have learned that approach was only making me feel defeated. I have had to learn how to pull colleagues aside and have these conversations with them. I had to sit with my colleagues who are not black by the way and explain to them why it is important they do not dismiss my feelings or my experience. I have had to explain why racial slurs HURT me as a black person on a level they would never understand. How comments said by anyone patient or not, is said by someone who does not value me as a human being. Many of my colleagues were open to having these conversation and a lot of the responses were “I’m sorry, I didn’t know that’s how it made you feel”, and then you get the collective few who respond with “I still don’t get it, I don’t think they really meant it the way you’re taking it”- Again trying to speak for my lived experience
What I have learned is that there will be those who choose to have a conversation and understand you, and then there will be those who choose to not understand you, why? Because they simply don’t care to
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?
To be honest like many jobs the only time we hear about anything to do with black folks is during black history month, and frankly speaking it is not something I have truly looked in to or even given any thought. I have a small group of black colleagues I can connect with. However I make sure I use the support systems I have. My family, my friends and my community
In your opinion, what can the government do to support the physical and mental wellbeing of Black folks in Canada?
The government can support the well-being of black folks by hiring more black people in jobs that directly impact and work with marginalized communities. There should be free counselling offered by black people that cater to black people.
The government can also help fund initiatives that implement support groups for young children
How do you take care of your own wellbeing? Are there programs in place to support folks in your profession?
There are no formal programs at my hospital I am aware of. However I have been fortunate enough to find a group of young black females like myself. We support and push each other to strive for greatness. We pray for each other provide advice, celebrate one another’s success and even console each other through difficult times. It is absolutely an amazing support system to have. We are unquestionably each other’s cheerleaders. We have even created our own What’s app group called “BLACK QUEENS”.