Me: Hi Mom, my name is Moyo and I’m a nurse practitioner.
Black Mom: Hi… um…I’m so sorry I’m staring… we’ve just never been seen by a Black provider here. Wow.
Have you ever been in a space where half of the people you come across can’t believe you’re the provider? And the other of half… well.. mistake you for anything and everything but the provider? It’s the wildest feeling in the world, I promise you.
When I started the journey to become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, I had accepted that I would often be in spaces where few people looked like me. In fact, I’m currently the ONLY Black provider at my job and according to one parent, have been so for at least the last 15 years. Yeah…FIFTEEN. With that being said, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised when the parents of beautiful brown skinned boys and girls are shocked (in a great way) that I’ll be seeing their kids.
But, I cannot tell a lie - at every moment this happens (I’ve lost count at this point), my heart drops a little. In 2021 there are STILL people that can say they’ve NEVER been seen by a Black provider? We have come such a long way, but we have such a longgg way to go. In honor of Black History Month, I want to share a little bit about the first Black nurse practitioner, Mary Grant Seacole, who paved the way for women like me. A Jamaican woman by birth, Nurse Practitioner Seacole treated patients in Panama during the Cholera Outbreak of the early 1850s. She later traveled to England to care for British soldiers at the forefront of the Crimean War.
In every discipline, I believe there is a lack of diversity, especially within nursing. According to a 2015 study from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration, only 5.7% of nurse practitioners are Black. More recent studies show that number anywhere between 8-10%.... Still not enough.
To Mary Grant Seacole, every other Black nurse practitioner, and Black "anythings and everythings" in every field – thank you! The road as the "only black" or
"first black" anything can often be lonely and daunting to say the least. But, we must remind ourselves that there are black boys and girls seeking faces in medicine, education, law, creative arts, civil servanthood (the list goes on) to look up to. Representation absolutely matters and that continues to be a major part of my driving force when I step into work each day.
Whatever profession you find yourself in, do it and do it WELL. On this day, this month… and really every other day in the year, I celebrate Blackness. And that's on what? period.