Black History Month – David Uzosike’s storyOctober 29, 2020
To celebrate Black History Month, we spoke to David Uzosike, mental health nurse and interim chair of the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) network, about his journey within the NHS and what Black History Month means to him.
What Black History Month means to me
Black History Month is a time to reflect on and celebrate the uniqueness of our identities, struggles and contributions to our communities, our NHS, the UK and humanity at large. It is an opportunity to showcase the unity in our cultural diversities, and our common values. It is a time to highlight and celebrate our arts and culture, our food, talent and skills.
As the chair of the BAME network, Black History Month is an opportunity to not only highlight some of the challenges that affect our BAME staff, but also an opportunity to galvanize our collective efforts to change and make our society a better place. It’s an opportunity to encourage all of our staff to be part of the transformation sweeping across the planet and to help shape our collective future.
My journey within the NHS
I was born in Nigeria and began my journey as a nurse in the NHS in January 2000. It was a chance conversation that inspired me to pursue a career in mental health nursing. A senior lecturer from Thames Valley University came into the mobile phone shop where I worked as a store manager. After patiently listening to her and resolving her complaints, she was delighted with her experience and mentioned that my public relation skills would be a great asset in mental health care. I was so inspired by her kind words, “You will be a great mental health nurse”, that I applied for a course in psychiatric nursing at Thames Valley University (now the University of West London) and, four months later, I was enrolled as a nursing student. While in school, I represented our cohort at the Student Experience Committee and was an advocate for issues affecting students.
On my graduation in 2003, I started work with a London NHS trust, where I had a very positive and supportive start, and six months later, I became a psychiatric nurse for a community mental team. I received a lot of encouragement and, in 2004, I moved up a band. I also took part in the pilot of a new assertive outreach team and completed a Master’s degree in dual diagnosis.
I joined my local trust in 2008 and this provided me with the opportunity to work in different teams, including a crisis team and A&E liaison, among others. I was among the very few members of staff who piloted the single point of access in the trust.
To broaden my knowledge and gain better skills in mental health, I completed another Master’s degree, this time at Anglia Ruskin University in Advanced Practice, and completed research into the effectiveness of crisis intervention.
In 2014/15, I completed a post graduate degree in Mental Health Law and Practice and later became an Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP). This strengthened my knowledge, understanding and application of the Mental Health Act.
Currently, I work with a GP practice as a primary care nurse. This involves supporting GPs to provide care and support to patients who present with mental health difficulties and their families. I complete assessments of clients under the Mental Health Act.
As a BAME member of staff, I have in the past experienced some setbacks including conscious and unconscious bias. Despite this, I have abiding faith in the possibilities of a brighter future, but this will only come when we all join hands and drive the change which I believe is happening across the NHS and across the nation.
My family and close friends are very proud and supportive of all my endeavors. Their love and support has been a great source of strength and inspiration every step of the way. In 2018, I received a Rising Star Award from the Royal College of Nursing for my contributions to nursing and the NHS. This has all been made possible with the help and support of my friends and family.
Participation in community development activities gives me great pleasure. I helped form the Umunwanwa Community UK and Ireland in 1997 and I was the chair for over 15 years, during which time, we completed three classroom blocks in a secondary school in Nigeria.
I was also the vice chair of another social group, Ohuhu Development Union International UK and USA, and have worked collaboratively with our members in the USA to encourage and promote cultural development. During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, I helped to raise money for food and basic amenities for people in my local community.
The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the BAME community and the murder of George Floyd both highlighted the urgency to work together for equity and social justice. I am delighted with the support and commitment from all of our staff in ensuring a psychologically safe, more equitable and fairer workplace, and also within society in general.