I am a nurse… But I am black first.

I am watching the protests around this country and realizing just how little people knew about the racism that black people still experience. I have sat in my department and listened to people complain about the protests without understanding what it is we are protesting.

We want justice and equality as a people!

I quickly realized that while I will always be a nurse, which I have always seen as my identity, I am black first.

My mind goes back to all those times I’ve had patients hand me their trash because they thought I was EVS, even though I wear the same ciel blue as all their previous nurses. I go back to the times where my patient assumed I was the tech and my white tech was the nurse, and looked almost dismayed when my tech corrected them. I go back to being called “n*gger” multiple times by patients who saw no issue with using the word and fully meant it as an insult. I go back to being the only black nurse on a shift and not being included in conversations.

I realize that I am a nurse but I have always been black first.

I am proud to be black.

I am proud to be a nurse.

Both of those things are a part of me, they are intertwined.

Instead of being angry at comments based on ignorance of what is really happening, I have started educating my coworkers. I am speaking on the black experience in this country. I now speak up about what police mean to black individuals. I speak on our experiences. I talk to my coworkers about racism at its core.

I don’t want to be the “angry black woman”, I want to be the black woman that educates on the black perspective.

I am a black nurse, I carry black experiences, I will not carry them quietly.

Racism doesn’t stop because they are sick.

I am a nurse. I am a proud nurse. I am a proud BLACK nurse. I have never refused to treat someone because of the color of their skin. I have had patients refuse me as their nurse because of the color of my skin.

Racism doesn’t stop because someone is sick. 

I have been called a “black bitch”, “nigger”, reduced to “that colored girl”. I have had patients assume I am “the help” and ask for me to send in their “real nurse”. I have had patients assume I can’t be the one in charge because I am black and “black people can’t be in charge”. I still gave them the best care because I am a nurse, a damn good one at that.

When I decided to enter this field I knew that it would not be all hand-holding and smiles, regardless of what the NCLEX would have me believe. I knew there would be struggles. I knew there would be moments when I question whether I am strong enough. I knew I would question whether I am smart enough. I understood how intense nursing would be. I did not think I would be held to a different standard because of the color of my skin. I did not think that even at their sickest moment a racist would still be a racist. Call me naive. I assumed that if someone was dying they wouldn’t care who saved them. I was wrong. Racism runs deep. Hatred is ingrained into their souls. It is who they are. That level of ignorance is all they know.

I cannot take their stupidity to heart. My skin is not a cloak of shame but a badge of honor. I carry the strength of ancestors that have endured and survived hell, I am proud of that.  My skin does not have anything to do with my nursing abilities. My skin does not make me more or less of a person or nurse than anyone else. I am a good nurse because I make the effort to be. I continue to learn and grow because nursing never stops changing. Racism cannot stop me. Racism will not stop me. Racism will make me bring the pain meds a lot slower though…