This is the last in a series of articles presenting the Seven Survival Steps for black and ethnic minority staff working in the NHS, but they may provide a wider focus for discussion. The articles are excerpts and highlights from a forthcoming handbook.
The series acknowledges that organisational culture, leadership both at local and national level are the critical factors in determining race equality in the NHS. With a commitment to delivering good outcomes for people who work in NHS services, research has clearly shown that this will also lead to safe and effective outcomes for patients and people who use NHS services.
Step 7 - Remain Self-Empowered
The Seven Survival Steps aim to prepare BME workers, at individual level, particularly for those embarking or considering a career in the NHS.
The Steps take workers from Lining Up Your Defence (Step 1), by considering important matters to have in place from day 1, then to Engage at a Higher Level (Step 2) where workers are commended for doing the hard work, but knowing that is not the limit of contribution that BME workers can make.
Step 3 is about keeping your own path clear, and Step 4 is about the importance of having strong networks and connections that are there for you when you need it. Know Your Rights is Step 5, and understanding the importance of how to Influence Your Leaders is Step 6.
The final step is about how to use the information from all Seven Steps to Remain Empowered (Step 7)
Remaining empowered is about keeping the information from Steps 1 to 6 on board, so you draw on them periodically to power your development, and protect you from some pitfalls and provide support, information and guidance when needed.
More and more people are finding working in the NHS a game of survival, due to the scale of pressures on staff at all levels. There are many casualties, and many people experience discrimination and poor treatment as a consequence of poor leadership and organisational culture.
This series focuses on race inequality due to evidence that discrimination is getting worse and there is a direct consequence on patient safety. People often demote this agenda thinking it is one person's problem, or just a group of overly sensitive people. The evidence is clear, and we are all affected and hurt by race discrimination against anyone, and from anyone.
To Remain Empowered, Step 7 suggests taking stock through a the Seven - Step Checker, a checklist that you can complete periodically, to keep you aligned to the Seven Steps. It is beyond the scope of this article to set out the Seven Step Checker in full here, but examples are set out here:
Checklist questions (shortened)
Step 1. Line up your defence
Checker: Are my union and/or professional membership subscriptions up to date?
Step 2. Write a new script and commit to a higher level of engagement
Checker: How many reports or publications on my area of NHS work have I read in the past 3 months?
Step 3. Keep your roadway clear
Checker: Are there any work relationships that need attention or input?
Step 4. Get connected
Checker: Do I have/need a mentor or sponsor?
Checker: Have I joined any relevant networks and what progress is that achieving?
Step 5. Know your rights and obligations
Checker: Are there any relevant policy areas that need updating, any policies I need to read?
Step 6. Influence your leaders
Checker: What is my relationship with my line manager? Is there any development work to do there?
Checker: How many relevant meetings have I attended?
Checker: Is leadership for me?
This Seven-Step Checker can be tailored to meet individual needs, and it can become a part of your meetings with your line manager, your sponsor, your mentor, and be part of your annual appraisal, and your network discussions. It can be of useful toolkit for workforce and organisational development leaders, and NHS leaders. But it is intended as part of a toolkit for BME NHS workers survival.
It is a toolkit for temporary use, and hopefully we will be possible to discard it as soon as possible, because the cavities in the house have been repaired, the roof is rendered intact, and the people inside are safe, happy, well-cared for, and compassion circles the atmosphere. Make this toolkit redundant.
I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.