Who is the Diverse Nurse?
Updated: May 5
My name is Dawn Jarvis and I am known as the #DiverseNurse. I am a Registered Nurse and Lifestyle Entrepreneur, motivational speaker, inclusive leadership coach and a #diversity and #allyship strategist. I also have over 35 years experience of working in the English National Health Service (NHS).
People ask me how did I get here? Tell me about your journey.
Well, I was born in Loughborough Leicestershire in the East Midlands, the first child of Jamaican parents who came here as immigrants as part of the Windrush generation. Loughborough is (or was) an industrial town and there were not many Jamaican families there when I grew up there in the 1970s. In fact, there were about four families and we knew all of them. It was quite an isolating experience and I remember very clearly being a little Jamaican girl at home and trying to be an English child at school. A dual identity that remains to this day and one I have since found out is shared by many children of immigrants, particularly those from the Caribbean.
I became a #nurse because it was a childhood ambition. My mum was a nursing assistant in an old people's home and she bought me a nursing outfit for my fifth birthday, which I was delighted with. We also had an assembly at school where we had to say one line on the topic “ when I grow up I want to be...”. I asked my mum what should I say because I really had no idea and she said “say you are a nurse, like your Mum”.
So, the die was cast and that became my ambition, my dream and my ticket out of Loughborough. Things were difficult at home and the 70s was a bit of a hostile environment for immigrant families for various reasons, economics, politics and racism mainly. I felt very afraid and underconfident most of the time and dreamed of the time I could move away to London, where there were more black people.
I watched tv shows about nurses “Angels”, "General Hospital" and “The Young Doctors”. I joined the St Johns Ambulance service cadets where I met other girls who wanted to be nurses. Our brigade leader was a nurse and we learned how to bandage like pros. Those dreams kept me going from five to the age of eighteen when I moved to south London and started my career as nurse.
My nursing career has been most fulfilling but it has had its ups and downs. I would say that I have had a portfolio career - I have worked as a staff nurse, head of children’s nursing, a change manager, a service improvement lead, worked in quality surveillance, assurance and improvement, in workforce development. I have been a commissioner of health services and a regulator.
I once had ambitions to be a Director of Nursing or a Chief Executive but that was not to be. I found working as a black health professional very difficult at times. And that feeling of being the only black person in the room, especially when working at senior level, was a struggle and reminded me of being a child in Loughborough.
I did all the usual things - I got married, had kids, got divorced, became a single parent and was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) in my fifties. I worked full time throughout that and my nursing career helped me to do it, for which I am grateful. But all of that, and some of the barriers that come with my diverse lived experience as a black woman did not help. I also, along with a lot of other people, went through a lot of service reorganisations, five by the time I left the NHS in 2020.
What is my passion?
My passion is to make a difference for communities who are from or who are descendants of communities of the African diaspora. #Covid-19 changed everything and the disproportionate effect on communities that “look like me” has given me all the impetus, confidence and motivation to continue as a #nurseentrepreneur. My lived and observed experience in the NHS allows me to use all the skills that I acquired during my nursing career to help nurses and other healthcare staff who are transitioning into #leadership roles, and to do that authentically and sustainably. My work allows me to help #healthcareexecutives transform their #inclusion objectives into sustainable cultural change. My focus is on allyship to secure lasting change that is needed in a post pandemic world.
So how can I help you?
My mission is to inspire people, organisations and business owners to find their voice, to speak and be heard and to build the confidence to have courageous conversations that create compassionate and equitable cultures, enabling optimum health and well being for all communities. I do this through #motivationalspeaking, #writing, #coaching, #mentoring and helping people to create actionable plans that diversify leadership teams and empower staff whilst utilising 35 years’ experience as a senior leader in the English NHS.