Omobola Akinade has given up her spare time – often during the night – helping to lay the foundations for other Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff to progress.
The practice development nurse has been a role model for BAME staff across the health board since arriving here from Nigeria 18 years ago.
She has spoken up against racism in the workplace, helped higher-level positions become more diverse and been an instrumental figure for overseas nurses who have left home to work in Swansea Bay.
Her impact has led to not only nominations for awards within the health board, but also a national organisation which celebrates the leadership achievements of BAME staff.
Omobola arrived in Swansea in 2005, initially without her family, but now calls the city home.
Since progressing from a nurse to teaching the newest cohort of international nurses, she is now helping colleagues who are in the same position as she found herself when she first stepped foot in Swansea.
Her desire to help colleagues develop and progress within the health board is highlighted via a quality improvement project she created to ensure more BAME colleagues were applying for higher-level opportunities.
Such is her passion, part of the project’s work saw her voluntarily visit colleagues during night shifts to discuss how they could progress in their field.
Omobola said: “I want us to retain staff who have quality in care and can improve us as a health board.
“It’s something I am very passionate about, and after being accepted onto the Florence Nightingale Foundation Windrush Nurses and Midwives Leadership Programme, I developed a quality improvement project.
“It was about fair representation of BAME colleagues in high positions in Swansea Bay. It came from the experiences I’ve had in the health board in 2005.
“I sent questionnaires to recruiters and nurses to know their opinion on things. The majority of BAME nurses were unhappy that they’d been in one position for a long time, but some of them felt they should have had the promotion without applying because of their experience. Some felt there wasn’t any point in applying.
“I wanted to change their minds, and I didn’t want them to pass their way of thinking onto people coming after them.
“I did it for the first time in Singleton and saw the progress and change of people’s mindsets – they were applying for positions and progressed.
“So I rolled it out to Morriston, and it went very positively.
“I went around the wards, sometimes in the middle of the night, in Morriston to speak to staff one-on-one to share my experience and to listen to their thoughts.
“As I’m based in Baglan training our overseas nurses, I’d go home for a bit after my shift and then go to Morriston to speak to staff that night. If I had to wait for them to finish their medical rounds then I’d do that. It’s that important to me.
“I also set up a BAME leadership seminar, which had around 70 people in it, while people logged in from Neath Port Talbot Hospital to watch it.
“My project looked at a timeline comparing BAME staff to the rest of the workforce, and there was a major disparity in high-level appointments but that has since changed, which I’m really pleased about.”
Her work has been recognised by the National BAME Health and Care Awards, with Omobola nominated for the Compassionate and Inclusive Leader category.
Sharron Price, Interim Group Nurse Director of Neath Port Talbot and Singleton Service Group, nominated Omobola for the award.
She said: “I nominated her for the work she has done and leadership she shows not only to our BAME nurses but to our profession as a whole.
“She is a role model and inspiration to those around her, and is using her voice to encourage, support and develop our global majority nurses.
“We look forward to continue seeing Omobola develop and lead. As her colleague, we love working with and learning from her.”
Omobola is also responsible for changing the way racism in the workplace has been dealt with and recorded.
After experiencing racist abuse from a patient in 2021, she took a stand and became a champion of equality at work.
To improve the way in which the matter was dealt with, staff and management were trained further while posters were placed around wards discouraging racist behaviour.
Her efforts have led to further internal recognition, with Omobola nominated in the Excellence in Equality & Inclusion category in the health board’s Living Our Values Awards at Swansea Arena in September.
Omobola added: “I feel so honoured and grateful to be nominated for the two awards.
“Knowing that what I’ve done and continue to do has been recognised is helping people is really pleasing.
“I arrived from Nigeria on my own and it was a scary move, but I love it here and so do my family.
“I’ve been able to progress and develop my own skills, and now I am having the chance to help people who were in the same position I was in.
“When I arrived, I didn’t feel that I had anyone that looked like me who I could speak to.
“Now I can help people in that situation, particularly in my role training the overseas nurses.
“I get staff contacting me to speak about a range of subjects, and it’s something I love to do. Until you’re in that situation, where you’ve moved country and left your family behind for a while, you can’t fully understand how difficult it can be settling into a new country, a new job, a new life.
“But I’m here to help them in any way I can.”
(Lead image: Swansea Bay NHS)
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