BAME HCAs: The multifaceted positives of the NHS BAME workforce

Her work to inspire BAME healthcare workers made Pamela Shaw and obvious winner at last year's BAME Health & Care Awards

Pamela Shaw is a qualified Registered Nurse, Midwife, Practice Educator and Health Visitor with wide experience of education and clinical practice. She is also the Inspiring Diversity and Inclusion Lead winner of the National BAME Health & Care Awards 2019.

The judges praised Pamela for showcasing the multifaceted aspects of NHS BAME workers to seize development opportunities alongside limited resources. A year later, she continues to champion the community through her D&I work.

Pamela, you are incredibly involved in D&I groups, should this be encouraged?

Absolutely, being part of a D&I group enables a stronger voice for positive change and the encouragement of fair practice for all, particularly underrepresented groups and those with protected characteristics.

D&I groups work best when senior leaders are involved, who can act and change the culture of organisations from the top-down and bottom-up. Having senior leader support sends a clear message that people matter, and this, in turn, encourages others to follow their lead.

Equally important is ensuring that D&I groups are a safe place for open, honest discussions and wide debate -where individuals can share their positive and negative experiences. I believe the group should feed into the main working of the organisation and be part of the change process.

Research shows that where the culture of an organisation is inclusive with a diverse make-up of staff, attendance at D&I events is encouraged and central to its core workings, which enables a positive, compassionate culture that is more productive with less sickness and absenteeism.

What could allies do to help the BAME community?

Allies can do much to help the BAME community by working together to put actions in place to meet key equality objectives. Allies enable a collective voice and are a source of support for raising concerns and identifying solutions. Having allies with differing levels of experience, seniorities and from diverse backgrounds/race helps to disperse stereotypes, share best practice and facilitate extensive networking and learning.

Allies can make diversity central to all elements of NHS and social care by the following means:

  • raising the disparity of BAME leadership and maintaining the momentum of Black Lives Matter campaign
  • keeping BAME leadership and talent management on the agenda
  • accessing data on the banding of staff and by increasing numbers of BAME staff receiving honours/national awards for their contributions
  •  reporting best practice and showcasing organisations who have implemented actions to address the representation of BAME staff in leadership positions, and
  • continuous monitoring and reporting the sustainability of BAME leadership figures.

The NHS Peoples Plan, Long Term Plan, model employer and the WRES (Workforce Race Equality Standard) all support the aim of continuing to talk about race and set action plans to achieve equity for the BAME community across the health services.

Research recognises that a diverse workforce at all levels is good for the NHS and social care economy as it enables access to a wider range of skills and talents. A diverse workforce is better equipped to meet the needs of our diverse communities. It also benefits the workforce’s health and wellbeing as they will enjoy greater workplace opportunities, increased job satisfaction and are better rewarded for their contribution to the NHS.

I believe we all have a role to play in making access to career progression fairer so that talented BAME workers can succeed and climb the career ladder like their white colleagues. And, so that they can contribute to the advancement of improved care in the NHS and the people’s health economy.

Do the BAME Health & Care Awards help celebrate D&I?

The National BAME Health & Care Awards are an opportunity to recognise, reward and promote BAME staff contributions to the health and social care. The Awards celebrate excellence and leadership across the UK. They showcase the talent and outstanding work BAME staff are doing in the workplace whose achievements so often go unnoticed and uncelebrated.

Furthermore, the Awards create a community of learning and a supportive network for ongoing acknowledgement, individual support/coaching and career progression. This was demonstrated at the Awards event through the winners’ stories and those who were shortlisted. It also highlighted the need for additional support for BAME staff through networking conversations with nominees and reading about their work, which embraced diversity and inclusion.
What did winning a BAME HCA mean to you?

It means so much to have the many years I have contributed to the NHS on diversity and inclusion recognised and acknowledged in this way, particularly the work I have done tirelessly and enthusiastically to raise the profile of the BAME nursing workforce. 

The WRES and other reports show that challenges and frustration remain for BAME workers over the lack of representation at senior levels in health and social care, which can lead to a sense of marginalisation. Winning the BAME award has opened up avenues to work with key people in NHS England and NHS Improvement to use my talent to contribute to key NHS objectives on BAME inclusivity. This includes ways to address barriers to BAME career progression, and most recently, contributing to strategies to address the disproportionate numbers of  BAME staff impacted by COVID-19.

The Award confirmed that others believe in me and appreciate my contribution to the health service. It has motivated me to continue to strive to make a positive change, and encourage others to be the best they can be and have the courage to go for opportunities that they may once have felt were unattainable.

I feel encouraged to continue the work I have started with allies, key leaders and my organisation in levelling the playing field so that BAME workers have equal access to career opportunities, promotion and recognition of the talent/contribution to health and social care.

How has your career since changed?

I have always considered myself a role model and ambassador for the nursing profession and an advocate for diversity and inclusion. This means not being afraid to get involved and offer my knowledge/skills to improve services and staff health and wellbeing. I have joined local and international networks to be with like-minded professionals and share best practice.

Winning the Award has opened other doors for me, allowing me to access coaching and mentoring from key leaders. I’ve been able to widen my networks and seize opportunities to contribute and influence the wider NHS consulate positively. For example, drawing on my wide experience as a Queen’s Nurse, speak up champion, union representative, staff governor, equality representative and CNO BME member.  

I have been able to offer support and solutions on a range of topics from discussing PPE, risk assessments and being part of the wider staff engagement process.

The biggest change for me was having my talent recognised and utilised in my current role.  I am currently on a six-month secondment as Workforce Safer Staffing Specialist Nurse, which involves detailed workforce planning for Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust, Community Children’s Services.

It is a much-needed role as it requires ongoing long-term planning with frequent reviews of staff recruitment/selection, staff sickness/absence, training/education and pre-empting trends to ensure we have a workforce fit for purpose with valued staff who have pride in their work.

Winning the award has also allowed me to contribute to some national projects, namely working with NHS England and NHS Improvement to shape support from BAME nurses 2020; and presenting at a Regional CNO BME’ Black History Month’ conference alongside senior nurse leaders 2020.

It gave me the courage to apply for external senior leadership roles and be selected for interviews; I’ve presented at the commonwealth nurses conference 2020 and participated in a regional portrait in honour of BAME NHS workers providing care during COVID-19.

How can we further recognise the achievements of BAME staff?

By continuing to showcase role models from the BAME workforce and ensure their achievements, career stories and journeys are recognised and publicised. By advertising opportunities for career development/leadership role via existing BAME networks. And, by encouraging BAME staff and clinical leaders from white backgrounds to nominate BAME staff who demonstrate aspiration and have developed services or raised quality of care.

There are many more ways in which you can continuously recognise the achievements of BAME staff, most of which centre on raising awareness and their visibility throughout the organisation, through speaker opportunities, articles, workshops, peer-to-peer networks, sponsorship, mentoring and coaching.

Don’t miss the opportunity to celebrate the work this underrepresented group of individuals do. You can nominate your candidate, or yourself by visiting The National BAME Health & Care Awards site or clicking here. Support the cause by using the #BAMEHCA21 and #celebratingexcellence.
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