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Cygnet Acer Clinic nurse shortlisted as a finalist in Student Nursing Times Awards 2021

Irene Ibanda

Congratulations to Irene Ibanda, a registered mental health nurse at Cygnet Acer Clinic in Chesterfield, who has been shortlisted in this year’s Student Nursing Times Awards as a finalist for the Mary Seacole Award for Outstanding Contribution to Diversity and Inclusion.

Irene was nominated for the award by the Nursing and Midwifery Minoritised (NMM) group in recognition of her work with NMM whilst still a nursing student at Sheffield Hallam University and subsequently since she qualified.

Irene explains, “My journey began during the second year of my nursing degree. As a Sheffield Hallam student representative and coming from a Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) background, I found BAME students approached me with various issues faced whilst on placement; which I could relate with based on my own personal experiences. These ranged from microaggression to what felt like direct and open racism.

“During this time I was also a member of the Nursing and Midwifery Minoritised (NMM) group. NMM was founded by Ifrah Salih, a senior lecturer and PhD student at Sheffield Hallam University. The group provides a safe space for students to meet, share their personal experiences of placement and support each other. Through NMM, I was invited to present at the Royal College of Nursing’s Black History Month Conference 2020.

“In the interview, I shared my own personal experiences of nursing placements as a BAME student and the importance of speaking up and having a voice. One of the topics I explored was the importance of names for people from BAME communities, the use of nicknames/shortening of names and the cultural significance of this and also empowering students to speak up and challenge discrimination.

“Since qualifying and joining Cygnet Acer Clinic as a staff nurse, I have worked alongside management in implementing an initiative for Equality and Diversity; making me the first ever BAME Champion to be appointed at my hospital. In this role, I encourage and support BAME staff to speak up about any experiences of racism (direct and indirect racism), microaggression and any other forms of discrimination.

“I also conduct some informal awareness raising work, mainly with non-BAME colleagues during which we have some thought provoking discussions. This helps to initiate what can be uncomfortable but much needed conversations around race and race inequalities.

“I feel extremely honoured and humbled to have made the finals of the Student Nursing Times Awards. I am very passionate about race equity and believe that understanding cultural differences would be a big step towards embracing diversity consequently tackling some of the issues faced today by staff from BAME communities. I will continue with the awareness raising work in the work place in order to promote diversity and inclusion and also empower BAME staff to speak up and be heard.”

Carolyn O’Connor, Clinical Manager at Cygnet Acer Clinic, said, “Everyone at Acer feels extremely proud of Irene and privileged to work alongside her. Irene has been having open communications with all members of the team and is delivering training to the staff, Irene will also be invited to share her experiences and knowledge with the wider Cygnet services. Irene you are an inspiration to us all!”

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