I have been a nurse for about 10 years now and I must say being black in the medical field has been a truly eye-opening experience. I’ve had situations where patients have refused care because of the colour of my skin. Spewing foul hatred with no regard for the innocent young ears lining the waiting rooms.
At first, I would be ashamed on rare occasions and ignorant hate-filled patients would erupt. I’d cover my beautiful skin - almost cower. It’s hard to be strong when your numbers are few. Often, I was the only black face in the room. I worked for the top plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills for the first 5 years of my nursing care.
There were times I relished in being the only black nurse in the building. I loved when I would come into a room and a little black girl would be mesmerised by my stethoscope or in awe as I removed sutures. The best payment was hearing:
“When I grow up I want to be to be just like you”
The positive experiences greatly outweigh the negative. As a black woman in the medical field, you subconsciously hold yourself to a high standard of care. Since there are not a lot of faces that look like mine in the offices of Beverly Hill, I didn’t want to make mistakes. That places an unspoken weight on your shoulders. You not only fear failure for yourself but you fear your mistakes may prevent black hires in the future. I always felt as if my skin was a badge of honour. I relished in my glory. I prided myself in being the best.
I did feel as though I was constantly battling against the stereotypes in my co-workers' heads. They always had these stereotypes about black women that I didn’t meet, therefore my blackness was questioned by white co-workers which was irritating, to say the least. I learned early on in my nursing career to combat hatred and ignorance with kindness and education.
I worked tirelessly to break the ridiculous notions about black women. I showed up to work first and I left last. I went above and beyond in my patient care because sadly, I know if they forgot my name I was going to be reduced to my skin colour and become “The black nurse that helped out”.
That title - “the black nurse” - holds a lot of weight both negatively and positively. All of this can be daunting. Knowing that all your accolades and or failures are summed up by that one title. Knowing that fact, I have always made it a point to exude excellence and command respect with my knowledge and professionalism.
Being black in the medical field is wielding a double-edged sword. Your skin is a badge of honour and often, your skin is a name-tag, nothing more than an identification badge from the lips of “forgetful” patients. The handful of racial occurrences will be overshadowed by the constant pride you feel being able to aide the sick in healing. Providing patient care is a job that requires an intense amount of selflessness. Nursing goes beyond race, nursing goes beyond black and white.
As a black nurse, you carry yourself a little different. You hold your head a little higher because you know there a few patients that may think you are unworthy and that’s fine, they can sit right there in the waiting room to be seen like everyone else.
What will hold you above those patients as a black nurse is you will always give outstanding and exceptional patient care to each and every patient every single time because you are black excellence. You’re in that room for a reason and that reason and you deserve to wear that stethoscope. Being black in the medical field is nothing short of amazing.
Shayla Marie Anderson is a nurse, mom, wife and content creator based out of Temecula California. Shayla runs a lifestyle blog - a site for millennial moms both working and stay at home who wanted to stay up to date with the latest trends in pop culture vegan cooking and social media.