Inspiration for Activism Part II –
My name is Nicky and I’m a mental health health nurse living in London. I’ve been a nurse for 20 years and I now teach the next generations as an Associate Professor. I have nursing to thank for helping me find my voice. If it wasn’t for the mentoring and guidance I received from the nurses who encouraged and supported me I wouldn’t be in a position to give back to others now.
My activism is mainly situated around supporting women’s mental and physical well-being. I use my nursing skills to do that in a number of ways. I initially went down the traditional routes of service development, policy writing etc. and though I still use the research and writing skills I learned as a nurse to bring focus to under-served populations and to make the great work of others as accessible as possible; I have experiences from my own work that I can use to encourage good practice.
However a real turning point for me was when I was quoted at a conference talking about nursing and politics on twitter and realized how scared I was that I’d done something wrong by speaking up. I had somehow come to believe that being neutral is a sign of professionalism – certainly there are expectations of compassion and good sense for all nurses but it’s not wrong to say what you think. Nursing gives us privileged access to parts of society that mean our perspectives and opinions are not only valid but helpful to finding ways forward. I think we have a moral duty to be active in the ways that we can, to promote healthy societies.
I use my experience as a nurse to raise understanding of women’s health needs including working with a number of organizations to launch a Period Dignity campaign. I’m also lucky to be working with some amazing nurse specialists to create a topic guide for menopause and mental health.
Like all nurses I have skills in organization, risk assessment and communication – I use them to help people with extra needs (commonly physical and mental health issues) to participate in society via protest marches and community art projects. This year 4 UK cities saw #Processions2018 a celebration of the first women getting the vote in Britain (see more information here).
Most recently I was thrilled and very, very proud when working on the 50:50 Parliament campaign (it’s a cross-party initiative to achieve an inclusive, gender-balanced parliament) to see nursing friends who I didn’t know were interested coming forward to stand. These are activities which whilst not directly nursing, do what nursing does by enriching and strengthening people to live the best lives they can.
Nurses don’t always think about the skills and gifts they have as valuable but they have never been more needed. I’ve been a trustee for a women’s center near my flat for a few years now and my nursing experience has enabled me to contribute usefully. One of the ways that I help as a nurse, is by supporting a ‘ground-up health’ initiative by women who organize health information sessions and develop a health calendar translated in to the languages common within their area. It’s really fulfilling to see people get the confidence to source the knowledge they want and give it to others in a useful format as a gift.
I had the privilege of meeting nurse activist colleagues at the Nurse Activism Think Tank this year and it made me think about my responsibility to be more open about my nursing work in this area. The community and fellowship I found there helped me to be a bit bolder in doing it!
I will do my best to get to the next one – see the information here!