“I wanted to do something to make a difference and I felt I could contribute,” says Hamira Ghafoor, who’s been nursing at Oxford University Hospital NHS Trust for 17 years, and a learning rep since November 2015. That's why she got more involved with raising awareness of race equality in her workplace. “For me, it’s all about inclusion. I wanted to bring people together from different backgrounds and celebrate our successes.”
After joining the trust’s Race Equality Action Group, last year she helped organise an event to mark Eid al-Fitr, which follows the month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast during daylight hours.
“It was a good opportunity to talk to staff about fasting, why we do it and how an awareness of what happens can help in patient care and supporting colleagues,” says Hamira. “People can feel hesitant to ask questions, but we’re very happy to talk about it. We had great feedback from everyone who attended.” A similar event this year attracted more than double the numbers.
The group is also looking at interview and presentation skills for black and minority ethnic (BME) staff to enhance their promotion prospects. “We’re trying to boost confidence,” says Hamira (pictured above). “The data tells us that a disproportionate number of BME nurses remain in band 5 posts, not moving upwards. There are many factors that cause the gap, but we’re looking at what we can do to help staff progress.”
A key aspect of Hamira’s approach has been to join various advisory groups within the trust, including being part of a panel looking at overseas staff recruitment. “Following the first phase of international recruitment more than a decade ago BME staff said they felt unsupported settling in a new country,” she says. “I wanted it to be different this time around.”
Being able to share the experiences of staff is also crucial, Hamira believes. “If we’re saying this is how staff feel, and I have specific examples of how they have been affected - whether positively or negatively - it’s a learning opportunity for everyone,” she says. “Stories resonate with all of us and staff want to be heard and understood.”
When you include people from different backgrounds, you widen your lens
The continued focus has moved issues of equality and diversity much higher up the agenda, Hamira believes. “It used to have the back seat in the room and now it has a seat at the front table,” she says.
For Hamira, it’s about starting the discussion and involving as many others as possible. “When you look at something on your own, you will only ever see it from your angle,” she says. “But when you include people from different backgrounds, you widen your lens and enhance your vision.”
Wendy Irwin, RCN diversity lead, says: “Hamira’s story shows that RCN reps can have a real impact on issues of equality and inclusion in their workplace. We’d like to give all of our reps the knowledge, skills and confidence to do the same.”
The RCN is developing a resource to help you create an equal and inclusive workplace culture. If you would like to help develop this resource, or have positive stories or examples to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org