March 2020 will forever stand out in my mind as it will for millions of others universally. We were all suddenly in the midst of a pandemic, the like of which, none of us had ever seen.
On a professional note, at that time, I was approaching the end of my secondment with thoughts about what the future would hold. In thinking about what I would do next, I never thought it would include a total lockdown with months and months of home working and home schooling with no end in sight.
Then came the pandemic – Coronavirus – Covid-19, the novel virus that the greatest scientific minds were frantically grappling to understand. Equally and scarily, at the same time, essential or key workers in health care settings and other sectors were literally facing covid-19 head on. In response to the increasing risk, staff in my organisation were asked to work from home and within weeks, I had been offered another secondment to work with a team to support staff back to the frontline in the covid response. It was a time of fast paced change, anxiety and uncertainty. Unprecedented, it was. And the response to the call for newly retired and other clinical staff to return to practice to help the NHS was also unprecedented.
On a more personal note, it was while I worked within the team to place staff safely back into practice and supporting others in a more personal capacity that I began to develop feelings of guilt that I was not also on the frontline. The news that people of a black, minority and ethnic (BME) background may be more susceptible to contracting severe covid-19 echoed globally and resonated tragically locally. Staff who reached out to me for support were scared for themselves and for their families. I was scared too. Still, I felt incredible guilt that others were out on the “frontline” while I was working from home. This guilt was unshakeable despite me being at clinical risk of contracting severe covid-19 and needing to “shield” at home. I kept thinking, “what do I have to feel guilty about?”, still the guilt stayed. It may have something to do with being a nurse that guilt seems too easy to find us and too difficult to shake off. That’s a whole topic on its own and for a future blog.
While I wrestled with my thoughts and with more and more staff contacting me for moral and emotional support, I struggled for a few days thinking how I could do something helpful to offer some hope collectively to those who were keeping us all safe. There was something about helping a group rather than taking on the responsibility and emotional toll of individual support. It was overwhelming to hear their stories. Heartbreaking even.
That’s when I remembered that I had my newly created YouTube channel that I had shared a poem on in February 2020 and never felt the desire to do anything else with. That was until the enormous guilt forced me out of my comfort zone.
As an introvert, it would be a mammoth task for me to face the camera given that I had spent 5 years blogging away happily and had only ventured into podcasting a few months before the pandemic hit us. The thought of becoming a vlogger could very well be a step too far, I thought. Still, only time would tell if it would be something that I enjoyed or more importantly was any good at. However, I decided to go ahead because of the visual impact of viewers taking time out to pause for a few minutes to relax and reflect on issues that may not otherwise have been explored at that time. It would be partly escapism, partly realism and always truism because I would be “speaking my truth to power”.
Soon after, while on my lunch break from homeworking, I decided to just go for it one day and I recorded a short video and shared it with bated breath. To my surprise, my friends on social media liked it when I shared it on my Whatsapp and on my YouTube channel, others liked it too. They said the views I expressed resonated with them on personally and professionally. Wow, I wasn’t expecting the flurry of comments that ensued. Not many people would have thought I would ever do a vlog. To be honest, I was shocked too.
Looking back, it’s an amazing example of how adversity leads us out of our comfort zones and into opportunities. It also highlights that we can connect while socially isolated, that we can have an impact using what we have from we are.
The unintended consequence of me facing up to my reality and in turn, using my thoughts, reflections and humour in a novel way to talk about topics that can be difficult to approach was phenomenal, life changing even. Well, it changed my life because as I shared my weekly, Maroon Mindset Lunchtime Vlogs, I developed a concept for a consultancy business as a direct result of the feedback I received from viewers. The nurse entrepreneur was born.
Here are a handful of the many comments from viewers, many of them, key workers:
“I was going to give up on a project I was doing and I just watched your Maroon Mindset vlog and I have changed my mind.”
“This vlog made me smile after a long day at work”
“Thank you for your viewpoint Nichole. Continue to be a strong voice for people of colour. Maroon and eagle Mindset. Proud and free.”
Then in November 2020, I was appointed into a senior role in the NHS and in a privileged position to have a positive impact on the lives and experiences of many more staff and patients than I envisioned.
– Use your talents well.
– Prepare for what is coming.
– Don’t give up even though there may be times when giving up seems appealing.
It’s now January 2021 and we are in the midst of another surge in the pandemic. I am hopeful for a better year than the last for us all.
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Stay safe. Stay well.