Assistant director of nursing – and the most senior nurse from a BME background in our Trust – Nichole McIntosh has had to climb mountains in order to progress her research journey.
The igniting fire for Nichole’s doctoral research was sparked by a patient survey workshop many years ago, when she learned that in a sample of 1250 patients and with reminders, only a small response is considered normal. The single point that stands out for her from the workshop was a comment that ‘patients from black and minority ethnic backgrounds don’t respond to surveys’. The dismissive attitude and acceptance of the situation as ‘matter of fact’, determined Nichole’s research journey’s destination: “I would undertake doctoral research to give a voice to those who may feel they are not being heard.”
(While in meetings Nichole stands up for what is right, no matter what:)
But the journey was far from smooth.
Following completion of her MSc in 2005, and a career that involved balancing a young family with progressively more senior nursing roles, Nichole first enrolled on a doctorate programme in 2009. But after completing two years of the taught component, and faced with ever reducing class size – just two left at the lowest point – she made a difficult decision to leave the programme after she had completed sufficient work to be awarded a Masters in Nursing Research and Practice Development.
(Listen to Nichole talk about a type of real struggle and how she is handling it: )
It’s a mark of the strength that runs through her like marble that she continued to hold on the ambition to complete doctoral level research. She ascribes this ‘zeal, tenacity and strength’ to her Jamaican heritage, and says it runs “deep within my DNA. I am the descendant of ancestors who were of African heritage, and who were brought from West Africa to the Caribbean, and who were rebellious and ingenious in fighting for their freedom and that of others.”
Nichole had to surmount numerous obstacles and overcome some significant challenges to follow her path to doctoral research, as her proposed research area was considered a ‘niche interest’. She said “I had a constant battle to get ahead in the NHS as an ambitious Black Caribbean woman and nurse with ambitions to study at the highest level, and this was now combined with the ‘weathering’ effect of having to ‘convince’ my supervisor that my research was worthwhile.” Her dedication and determination prevailed however, and Nichole knew it was “the last time I was going to be told to ‘know my place’”.
(Confidence is the most important trait for an achiever. Listen to how strong Nichole is:)
Nichole drew on a chance contact with a professor of transcultural health and nursing whom she had briefly met at a Chief Nursing Officer BME Advisory Group conference in October 2014, and successfully gained permission to transfer her course credits to a new university. Despite further setbacks in securing permission from the research ethics committee, Nichole persevered and received a favourable outcome from the HRA and REC in December 2017, and the green light from Middlesex University to commence her research in January 2018. She is now undertaking an ethnographic study on hospital experiences of older Black Caribbean patients on a stroke unit.
(Hear Nichole explain why the PhD is so important to her in the audio below)
By: Georgie Agass
Audio by: Good News Jamaica