Role modelling compassionate and courageous leadership

Rukeya Miah was crowned Midwife of the Year at the National BAME Health & Care Awards 2022

Here, Rukeya, Deputy Associate Director of Nursing and a Senior Midwife at Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, shares her thoughts on inclusive leadership.

Rukeya, what did it mean to you to win the BAME Midwife of the Year Award?

Winning the BAME Midwife of the Year Award has been incredibly humbling, as there were many deserving candidates. It’s a real privilege to receive an award such as this for the job I am so passionate about. Recognition of BAME midwives’ contribution and inclusive leadership in midwifery is particularly important as we know to accelerate this at pace.

I am very grateful to the NMC for sponsoring this award and to all the judges for choosing me over the many amazing, shortlisted candidates.

You have been described as a role model and inspirational leader. What challenges and barriers did you overcome in your career, and how did they help you support others?

There have been many challenges along the way. I have always been confident and determined, and when I started my career in the NHS as a registered nurse, I was conscious of being a minority. Some individuals made this evident, whilst others were close friends and colleagues.

I found that all too soon in my career, I could not maintain the status quo of being voiceless and invisible and all too often challenged attitudes and behaviours that did not make sense. I was not worried about reprisals but driven by personal values of respect, dignity, and kindness, as being otherwise was not an option.

I learnt to take control of negative experiences to support others around me with similar experiences. I have realised that no one can take away my capabilities, and some things will happen at their appointed time. However, even with my strong determination and a CAN-DO self-belief that no one can get in the way of my success, I still need support from others. It is the single most powerful enabler for success.

A key factor in my career has been the support of non-BAME leaders, who have inspired and motivated me through compassionate, courageous and inclusive leadership.

I attribute much of my inclusive leadership behaviours to them and their influence. For me, compassionate leadership is truly inclusive when it is not exclusive, and its influence transcends all barriers. I have been incredibly privileged to work with and care for patients from all walks of life. As a nurse, midwife and teacher, I’ve had the incredible privilege of shaping and inspiring past, present and future healthcare professionals. Diversity should be celebrated, not excluded or feared, as ignorance holds back everyone’s growth and development.

You’ve worked hard to reduce vaccine inequality among pregnant women, young people and BAME women. Why was this an issue for those groups?

My aim as Vaccine Equalities Lead for Bradford District and Craven Vaccination Programme was to reduce vaccine delay and hesitancy amongst pregnant and hard-to-reach pregnant women. I began addressing pregnant women’s and their family’s needs through virtual and group talks, organising webinars, podcasts, and videos in other languages and bespoke maternity, family and household vaccine clinics. I devised and implemented partnership working, which was informed by the creation of a co-produced 5-step COVID-19 vaccine equalities roadmap (Reference 1) based on the Act as One guiding principles, working together with communities, voluntary and independent sectors across Bradford district and Craven, ensuring no one was left behind.

What did you have to do to overcome any concerns about the COVID vaccination programme?

I constructively challenged vaccine inequity through authentic, inclusive leadership and lived experiences to help advocate healthcare professionals’ deeper knowledge of COVID-19 vaccine safety, efficacy and understandings for culturally diverse pregnant women and families in one of the most deprived districts in England with multi-factorial hesitancy. The large, richly diverse district remains globally connected with long-standing traditions of welcoming people from across the world who have contributed to the city’s history, heritage, cultural and economic life.

I applied behavioural science learning, service user feedback and knowledge of cultural sensitivity as an enabler for addressing health inequality that has led to low vaccine uptake across communities.

We held two events:

  • Older Urdu-speaking older women, enablers to younger women
  • Maternal mental health event: listening to pregnant women’s experiences around;
  • Impact of the pandemic on their mental health and wellbeing
    • Vaccine uptake
      • Partnership working to protect women
      • Women’s feedback to improve care and experiences.

The events highlighted the support needs of marginalised pregnant women experiencing mental health issues and how the local community and NHS service providers can support access to appropriate care and improve women’s mental health and wellbeing.

I provided women with a safe space to ask questions of experts in maternal mental health and COVID-19 vaccines. Such culturally sensitive engagements with community involvement provide holistic, culturally sensitive personalised care to pregnant women at increased risk of COVID-19 infections.

The recordings were shared via Urdu/Bangladeshi-speaking Sky media to amplify messages (Reference 8). NHS partnership working with communities remains critical to protecting pregnant women from COVID-19 by helping increase vaccine uptake.

Feedback from pregnant women, families and community leaders was very positive around partnership working, empowering people and communities through engagements.

What more would you like to see happen to ensure equality of maternity care?

I would like to see a Task and Finish Group set up nationally and made up of BAME senior midwifery leaders to address vaccine uptake and the wider maternal HI. This would ensure effective access and good experience to ensure good outcomes for pregnant BAME women and their families driven by a holistic model.  

When times are challenging at work, what or who inspires you to keep going?

My responsibilities to my patients, services and teams keep me going during tough times at work because if I or a member of my family needed care, then I would expect this from a leader/healthcare professional.

How do you look after your wellbeing while working under pressure?

By spending time with my four incredible children, husband and family – we’re a very close family and have lots of shared interests such as fusion-cookery, painting and entertaining friends and families. Being with my family is fun and rejuvenating and inspires me to do the things I do – continue to care, being inclusive and inspiring as they are the future.

What advice would you’d give to a student midwife or someone beginning their midwifery career?

Have self-belief, remain kind and conscientious. Never stop caring for those around you, family, friends and colleagues – your patients and their families. Always remember that they are the reason you are going into this profession – so never let them down no matter how tough your journey becomes – because the reward of being a midwife is immeasurable!

Find out more about the National BAME Health & Care Awards 2023, or nominate now by clicking here.

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