Stonewall: Mental Health Nurse speaks

Woman’s Place UK has recently published a letter drafted by nurses and midwives concerned at the impact of Stonewall’s Diversity Chamption Programme and Equality Index on patient care.

This post has been written by a mental health nurse who has worked in several NHS trusts in various settings. She is currently working in mental health crisis and emergency services.

She does not feel able to identify herself for fear of repercussions.

A Mental Health Nurse speaks

I am a Mental Health Nurse who has recently started to take a more passionate stance in advocating for safe spaces for women. The more I started to read into this, the more frustrated I became. I am a staunch believer in sex-based rights for women and am incensed by the backlash and abuse many, including myself, receive for simply stating this.

I have felt that as a registered Nurse I couldn’t speak out about my passion for delivering trauma informed care to victims of sexual abuse or assault for fear of losing my job. This may seem extreme but so many women have experienced exactly this when they have spoken out about their beliefs about biological sex. I also feared that I would be classed as judgemental and my ability as a nurse would be questioned.

Trauma informed care in nursing

This seems ironic as ‘trauma informed care’ is preached at every corner in nursing. However, we are not listening to the voices of women who have experienced years of trauma and abuse. I have always found it difficult to comprehend why, when placing someone who is a transgender (transwoman) in a shared bay, they are asked if they prefer to be in the male or female bay. Yet women are not asked how they feel about this. I feel it is almost contrary to trauma informed practice. Professionals are constrained by fear of appearing bigoted or putting their heads above the parapet.

I also believe that the transgender community is vulnerable to abuse, and lumping together people with different experiences does both parties a disservice. To be transgender brings unique experiences – including sometimes stress and adversity – but these are different experiences to those of many women. Both parties need their own, separate spaces to share their experiences and receive specialist support.

Policy makers must listen to women

As well as being a nurse, I am a woman, a survivor of child sexual exploitation, a feminist and a researcher. I am working class and will never be up there with executives or policy makers. But I still have a voice.

Directors who make policies need to listen to women’s experiences for a more informed understanding of how abused women might feel when unable to have a single-sex space when in crisis.

Valuing the personal experience professionals bring to their role

Many professionals are frightened to share their background or views for fear of being told they are not being impartial. I find this quite baffling as it is not assumed with other groups or areas of practice.

As an experienced nurse, I love my role and providing care to everyone I assess. My personal beliefs and experiences do not affect my professionalism and ability to do my job. I am far from transphobic and am saddened by the suicidality and self-harm seen in this group.

I will always advocate for anyone struggling with their mental health. I am incredibly aware of things which internally impact me and I utilise supervision and reflection effectively.

A culture of fear and silence at work

I am delighted by the letter published on Woman’s Place UK, giving clear, articulate, and evidence-based reasons why the Nursing and Midwifery Council should withdraw from Stonewall.

In the same breath, I am devastated by the extent of fear that professional nurses face for speaking out on this topic. Since starting to speak out on social media and advocating for sex based rights, I have received numerous messages of support, often from people much higher up in NHS trusts than me.

People who have been respected in their roles for many years and have a track record of delivering outstanding nursing care are fearful of the repercussions of expressing the opinion that biological sex exists. They remain anonymous.

I am also part of a group of nurses and midwives who strongly advocate for single-sex spaces and safeguarding vulnerable women, many of whom have horrendous histories of abuse and exploitation. There are articulate, accomplished women in nursing and midwifery who are petrified of anyone finding out their names and who will not publish their views on social media. These are women who have acted with nothing but care and professionalism throughout long and successful careers.

I still carry this anxiety of losing my job or being abused, but my passion surrounding this subject supersedes this. I also feel, as a woman in my thirties, many of us have been a passive generation who have subconsciously left the battles to others.

Now is the time to speak

I now feel that is the time for those who are able to express their voice to speak.

I have experienced abuse but am starting to learn to accept it. I speak for the women in mental health services who have lived a lifetime of abuse. Sadly, this is most of the women I see.

Women again are silenced in fear.

Other related articles

“The process is the punishment”: the policing of feminist thought in the workplace

Stonewall: Nurses and Midwives speak out

Stonewall: Letter to Nursing and Midwifery Council

March with Midwives – Inclusion and Exclusion

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