- Omaha City Council unanimously approves renaming of street to commemorate activist and musical artist Dominique Morgan
Creators & Guests
What is Take the Last Bite?
Take the Last Bite is a direct counter to the Midwest Nice mentality— highlighting advocacy & activism by queer/trans communities in the Midwest region. Each episode unearths the often disregarded and unacknowledged contributions of queer & trans folks to social change through interviews, casual conversations and reflections on Midwest queer time, space, and place.
For questions, comments and feedback: email@example.com
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Host: R.B. Brooks, they/them, director of programs for the Midwest Institute for Sexuality & Gender Diversity
Cover Art: Adrienne McCormick
Hey hi hello y’all, this is R.B.,Captain of the S.S. Midwest, welcoming you aboard another episode of Take the Last Bite, a show where we take Midwest Nice and tuck it into bed well before bedtime.
On today’s episode, we get a strong dose of education and honesty from a down-to-earth emergency room and travel nurse from Chicago. But before we get our vitals checked, I wanna hype up another Midwest based change-maker: Dominique Morgan.
One of Dominique’s missions in life and practice is to dismantle the systems that perpetuate violence against Black trans people. Among her extensive accomplishments and roles, Dominique has served as Executive Director of both The Okra Project and Black and Pink, she’s an incredible musical artist using hip hop as a storytelling tool, and now she’s added another HUGE distinction to her list: a street named in her honor.
Once upon a time, a young Dominique lived with her parents and siblings in Omaha, Nebraska. It didn’t take long for the common narratives of racial profiling and disproportionate rates of law enforcement interactions with Black folks to reach Dominique as a preteen. Dominique’s youth was interrupted by incarceration– including 18 months in solitary confinement– and today she is a fierce advocate for LGBTQ+ folks entrapped in the prison industrial complex.
When she arrived in Omaha on July 31 for the street naming ceremony, the Dominique Morgan Street sign hadn’t replaced just any street– it sits at what is now formerly an intersection of Taylor Street– which happens to be where Dominique’s childhood house is located.
When we look at recent history and think about who is traditionally commemorated through street and building namings, there’s a messy series of imagery that comes to mind. On one hand, we may think of promising imagery such as Black Lives Matter being painted down major city streets. We may also think about campus buildings named after racist old white men who donated millions or the recurring street signs damn near everywhere you go referring to dead presidents.
Either way, Black trans women are unfortunately not well-represented on that list. And oftentimes, when we do celebrate, commemorate, and contend with the legacies of Black trans women, they’re not around to see the unveilings. The newly named street in Omaha, Nebraska is a testament to the invisibilized contributions of Black trans women and femmes, a reminder that Black trans folks have roots, lives, stories, and backgrounds that are more than their identities, that they’re here in the Midwest– this place that’s presumed to be nothing but cornfields and fascists (trust me, we have them, but there’s a whole lot more going on here). This signage is a gesture the local officials in Omaha could decide is enough, but it’s also a token for accountability– a way to say “hey, are you really gonna let transphobic shit happen here when you’ve got a badass Black trans woman on your street signs?”
All of that to say, congratulations Dominique– on living a life you once couldn’t imagine and deciding to embrace it, for all the gifts you’ve given the world I’m ready to see more acknowledgements like this come your way.
Today’s guest is very familiar with piecing together a life-path after career derailments, the threat of incarceration, systemic racism, and a profit-driven healthcare system. Britney Daniels has spent the last five years in emergency rooms and has seen some shit– so much shit that she started to write down little bits of info, quotes, racist interactions– and has now compiled her quickly written notes into “Journal of a Black Queer Nurse” which came out in May 2023.
I chat with Britney about how she found herself working in emergency rooms, her front row seat to a deeply racist and busted healthcare system, and how her book aims to signal boost the need for healthcare professionals to do one simple thing to improve patient experiences.
Have a seat in the waiting room and we’ll be right with you for another episode of Take the Last Bite.
[INTRO MUSIC PLAYING]
Why can't we be in space with hundreds of other queer and trans folks and having these necessary conversations?
When it comes to dynamics around privilege and oppression, and around identity. Well intentioned isn’t actually good enough.
How far is too far to drive for a drag show? I don’t know, we’re in Duluth right now, I would straight up go to Nebraska, probably,
If you are not vibing, or something’s not right, or also like there’s an irreparable rupture, you have absolutely every right to walk away.
Definitely going to talk about Midwest Nice and if that's as real as it wants to think it is.
Midwest nice is white aggression. That's what it is.
Alright, let's go ahead and get into it. I'm really excited about this conversation and getting to know you through this conversation. Why don't we start a bit with you introducing yourself, and if in that you could include just a bit about what your connection or relationship is to the Midwest?
So my name is Brittany Daniels. I am an emergency room travel nurse. I'm an advocate. Before that, I have worked in numerous emergency rooms across the entire country. I yield from Chicago. I, you know, had most of my upbringing here in the city and in the suburbs surrounding it. And honestly, the Midwest has shaped who I am. I am very fortunate to have grown up. And this area where and this geographic area where I could be who I wanted to be without. Overt fear of being harmed by others or being, you know, unsafe. And I think that that's part. Of why I. Always come back home, you know, even in all my travels, always coming back to the Midwest because there's just a certain. There's a certain, you know, feeling of acceptance and safety here that I don't really think I have found elsewhere.
So, well, I I'm ironically, actually surprised, but grateful to hear that that's been your experience. Because sometimes I think I. I'm really on this because we had a conversation recently on the podcast with someone from the West Coast and I was explaining that there's a lot of pressure for Midwesterners to. Go elsewhere because there is this romanticization of like the West Coast, the northeast. You know, these major areas are are safer than areas in the Midwest because what is often projected. Still, Chicago, you know, is arguably like not Illinois, right? It's its.
Own thing so like. It almost kind of just offers a whole different vibe, so like I that's really cool. I appreciate that perspective. It's kind of. Not common. Kind of what? We talked to Midwesterners about. So thank you. For that. So emergency travel nurse, can we put a little loose definition on like what that has looked like? What an emergency travel nurse does for folks who might not know or be as familiar with that type of nurse?
So generally, coming out of nursing school, we as bedside nurses will work at a hospital as a staff nurse will pick a specialty that specialty doesn't have to be forever, right. Some folks sort of drift in and out of different specialties trying to find their needs. For me, it's always been emergency medicine. So I worked in emergency room as a staff nurse for almost 2 years and you know, after the first year I decided I really wanted to. You know, like you said, sort of explore other areas of this country and see what's going on outside of the, you know, Illinois State lines. And so, as an emergency department travel nurse, after building up a year of experience, I am able to sign up to be contracted to work at various hospitals for. You know, 8/13/12 weeks at a time depending, and it gives me the opportunity to work somewhere for a short period of time versus, you know, working there for years and taking on a permanent position. And in doing that, we don't get to the training. That you know. We get as a staff nurse so as a staff. First, you'll get, you know anywhere from. 8 to 12 weeks. Of orientation or or training with another nurse side by side, working with another nurse. But as a travel nurse, you usually get one day or maybe 2 days of orientation, and that's really not showing you anything. The then the logistics of the department. You know, there's a break room, there's a bathroom, there's there's. This is how we do that. Alright, you're on your own, you know? So it. It was definitely challenging at first, but you know after after, you know, gaining the experience that I gained at at various hospitals, I really became. Comfortable with it.
Got you. That's really. Helpful I. As a clarification too, right, I think my my personal perspective, for example of travel nurse in this day of pandemic living has been what what seems like travel nurses especially being utilized for additional support in either understaffed clinics or emergency rooms in your case, or areas where there's an enhanced need. Especially in this time of pandemic as a. Immediate reference point of you know folks areas. That need additional. Support for a variety of reasons. You know breakouts of COVID. In this case, all other scenarios has that been kind of the general trajectory of a travel nurse, or did that kind of shift where you're being sent to high priority low resource areas? Has that been more of a pandemic?
So travel nursing has always existed, right? For as long as I can remember. However, the pandemic definitely changed. Travel nursing, and so instead of, you know, the hospitals always need help. The hospitals are chronically understaffed. They the turnover is high. And that's just. What it is right? So hospitals are always needing additional support from from nurses. But the pandemic changed that. It changed the. The rates that travel nurses were getting paid at it changed the amount of hours that travel nurses were working. It changed everything, so every aspect of what we thought was travel nursing was quickly, quickly altered in the face of COVID.
So you know. It was. It was. Different and and I don't want to say it was worse or you know or better, but it it definitely changed the and and a lot of people didn't know about travel nursing until the pandemic.
Yeah, I think that's where I'm at.
A lot. Of folks. Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly. So I started traveling in 2018, whereas most folks started traveling in 2020.
And there was actually a little bit of, you know, the Ebola scare during my travels.
Oh, sure, yeah.
So, you know, it's always going to be something that change. The the the the need at at different hospitals we're seeing, you know, older nurses who are retiring. Now we see a lot of nurses who are are exhausted and burnt out and leaving the bedside. And so there's a there's a constant need, but yes, COVID absolutely changed that in a way that I don't know if. If travel nursing will ever be the.
Same, right? That's useful. And yeah, cause like I was. Like I just said, like I don't know that I was as abundantly familiar or aware of the role of a travel nurse pre COVID right in some ways, if there's like COVID kind of utilized, you know, this arsenal of travel nurses across the country to deploy them in places where there were these major outbreaks or lower vaccine rates that were contributing to outbreaks, et cetera. So it's useful to know that prior to kind of this, this literal global health crisis, that travel nursing also pre that offered maybe a smaller scale version of that. But ultimately what I'm hearing from you is kind of this diversification of experience where you get. Kind of see what is happening in other places, how other folks do things, especially if there's a unique factor. So that sounds like there used to be. A less frenzy tone to travel nursing and that the pandemic rocked that a little, so that that's useful to know.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
That's helpful. OK, look, got it. Nailed it.
Good to know. Let's talk about maybe some of your trajectory into now. So you just kind of the origin story here, how was there an aha moment? Did you always know? Did you get kind of redirected from? Plan A to plan nursing. Like how? How did you get here?
I sure did. I would call it derailed. No, I I love nursing.
I love being a nurse. No, I started so to to origin story as a high schooler, we had to have our meeting with our guidance counselor to talk about our future. Plans and I had at this point I had zero idea what I wanted to do. I I I wanted to stay out of jail, I wanted to keep a roof over my head. That's all I knew, right? And that was the goal. And so I'm sitting outside of the guidance counselor's office, waiting my turn because the student in there and there was a tower with pamphlets on it. And so I'm sitting there spinning the tower, most mostly that boredom, honestly. But I see. A black girl on one of the pamphlet covers and she's got a firefighter uniform on with a helmet and an axe and everything. And I was like, holy ****, that's. So cool, right? I can do that. You know, if she could do it, I can do it. And so that just speaks to again like the the importance of representation. And so when I went into the office, I told the guidance counselor, I want to be, Yep, I want to be a firefighter. That's what I want to do. And so you know, we started discussing like, what, what needs to happen in order for me to do that so Fast forward through my. Cadet training my volunteer slash part time work as a firefighter. I started working. I I had to get my EMT license as a. I didn't want to and I really pushed back against it because at that point there was a culture of it's not cool to do the medical stuff. It's only cool to do the fire stuff and that was just like the the culture of firefighting.
It was all. Very separate and now it's very combined. It's very fluid. So you you can't do one without the other. In most apartments now. So anyway, I had to do 40 hours of shadowing in the ER. And I fell in love with the emergency room. That led me to working as an ER tech, which I loved, and I was really good at it and I enjoyed it and it didn't pay well at all, you know. But it did it. It did what I needed it to do. I could pay my bills, I could support myself, and I was really, really happy with the work until one day. A doctor asked me to put a liquid bandage on a patient and I did, and the patient was fine, was discharged home, but the next day I came in and I was terminated and they said that it was because I wasn't supposed to put a liquid bandage on the patient. I was working outside of my scope of practice and someone saw me doing it. They reported me. You know, whatever. So yeah.
Yeah, and and the position, the position that was working with me gotta. You know a, a finger wagging and told not to, you know, have texts. Do that. And so that's when I decided I was like, well, I guess I'll go back to school. You know, I just like forced me to stop settling, and I was really comfortable again and I wasn't planning on furthering my education at all. So being terminated really like gave me the kick in the *** that I needed to, you know, move forward in my career and to really utilize the knowledge and the skills that I had. So it's like. You know, if I'm doing stuff that's outside of my scope, I should probably make it my scope. And so that's how I ended up in nursing.
That's cool. What a wild trajectory. That's so good. That's so wild. I'd be ******. I'm sure you were ******.
I'm hoping you're ******.
I was so ******. I was so ******.
Be like what? This person told me to.
Do this good, yes.
I'm still ******.
I mean, you know. I guess silver lining because now you're doing something that you're clearly very invested and passionate about. How was the schooling process then was that?
But yeah, you know.
Smooth sailing? Or was there some complexities there?
I'm a good student, so the academic portion was fine or like I'm a I'm a person who is really committed to learning. And I I love, you know, taking in new information. I love applying new information, so that part test taking and things like that. I I didn't struggle with it all. It was everything going on outside of school, you know? So I at the time, you know, when you're in nursing school, it's difficult to maintain a job. And so I was working part time so that I could go to school and do my clinical hours, which are very, very unpaid. So you're working 12 hour shifts at a hospital with your with, you know, other classmates and your clinical instructor. But that's time away from being able to work and make an income, right? Between studying being at lecture and being at clinical, I didn't have a lot of time to work, so at that point I moved back in with my biological mom. And just like bumping heads because you know, she's expecting me to help out financially. And I'm like, bro, like, I really can't.
I am not the one.
You know I'm.
I'm doing what I can, but truly I will be done with school in a year. Like just please, like, chill. And so that that was was really frustrating is trying to. You know, and I I can't imagine how folks who have children and families do it, but they do. They figure it out and they do it. And you know, it's so important to have, you know, a support system because nursing school is difficult. And, you know, I know that I say that I didn't have an issue with it, but that's because I would spend six 6 1/2 hours at Starbucks. They knew me, they. Knew me at Starbucks.
They they knew my name. They knew my drink. They knew what I was doing. And so it's just one of those things where if you don't have that that support, it makes it a little bit, it makes a little bit more challenging, but you. You know, other than you know, struggling financially throughout nursing school and dealing with those familial issues, it really was. I wouldn't. I wouldn't trade it for anything if I had to go back and do it again, I would do it all over again. It was totally worth it.
I'm good, good, good. Yeah, I I'd share with you before I hit record. I have a very close friend. It was a it was a nice and we were in college at the same time and. Like we did, we hung out plenty. Somehow, but also there were other times where like where are you like? We were a world. Apart academically, sometimes I'd be like, Oh yes, it's midterm time that matters to you. I was an English major. I just got. I got a lot of. Sorry you we are a. World apart right now, yes.
It's it's hard right cause folks. It's hard to understand what what a nursing student goes through, what they deal with, and that's why you know for me. So my journey, everyone's nursing school journey is completely different and unique, but mine was a two year associate degree program started working, did the online RN to BSN or bachelor's program. Then did my bachelor's program to Masters program online while continuing to work, and I'm currently doing my master's and doctorate. So it's just it. Thank you. You're right. Like one step at a time, just making sure that I can earn an income while going to. And that's why for me, I I work at the school that I that I graduated from part time at Purdue University, Northwest and I spend as much time as I can with the students so that they have the support that they need. Right. e-mail me if you have a question. If you're struggling, let's spend time together. In the in the Skills Lab and the simulation lab and just being an ear for them because having someone just knowing someone who is a nurse changes. Every everything for yourself because you're talking to someone who has gotten past the the hump or that gate or that fence that you feel like you can't. You can't mount, so it's really important to have that. That realization in front of you that, hey, I'm human too. I, you know, I. I I cuss and I make jokes and I'm normal, right? Like I'm I'm black as hell. I'm queer as hell. I like. To have fun too, and I I did it, and if. So you can do it, it's just an A reminder for them that it's it's possible because sometimes. I feel like especially in healthcare folks, folks try to make it seem like everything is so impossible and unattainable, and it it's not. It's simply not.
That's so good. But do you feel like your experience, too has been has that particularly mattered in an ex like a? In an additional way for. Or queer students and black students that you've engaged with. I'm imagining, yeah.
Oh, 1000% one day I was recording a video and I was asking the students, what do you like having me? Is this was when I was a grad aide. I current I work there now, but before I was a graduate graduate aide and I, I said, why do you like having me as your grad aide? And one of the students straight up like like straight face? It's like because you're gay. And it was just the best, right, because? It was a student who was struggling with their coming out with their families acceptance, right.
So just having someone around. Who was openly queer was really, you know, really helpful for them. And it was sort of an escape from the, you know, the strict Christian norms that their family's been. Right. So, yeah, having someone who who can appreciate and understand what. Like to be a sexual minority gender minority in in academia and and Healthcare is really important.
Now that's so good. That's so, so good. And yeah, I yeah, I mean as an educator too, right, working full time with like college students and, you know, not all the folks that I work with are going to connect. But for the ones who do connect, I I can see and I'm sure you've experienced a version of this. Like you can see and feel like the connections being made much faster or in a much. More meaningful way. When they're like, Oh yes, kind of to your point of like I. Saw this pamphlet with this. Black female firefighter, which just adds a layer of gender trouble to. It by itself.
Yes, yes, exactly.
Right. Just like that was that was.
A opening for. I love that. So let let me piece. Together, a timeline just to clarify, right? So you do the schooling thing right. You have great time. You do this arduous, you know, nursing program process, you get your paper and you are off to what? What are we doing right after school? Are we in the emergency room? In travel nursing, right?
So we're in the emergency room right away. Travel nursing.
I had to wait because you had to have one year of experience in your specialty before they'll allow you to travel.
Got it. That's right.
Although I did try after six months and. They were like girl. Bye.
And the worst you could get was no you.
It was worth a shot. It's worth a shot. I was like, let's go. I'm ready. And and again, you know, talking about how travel nursing has changed. For me it was about. Seeing different cities seeing different states, I I had never seen a palm tree in person. I had never seen a mountain in person right? That's what it was about for me. So yes, I started working in the emergency room right away. Now that was difficult because honestly, almost as hard you as a school because it's so hard at that point to get hired as a new graduate nurse in an ER, they don't trust new graduate nurses in the ER.
Right. And so they wanted me to have experience as a nurse anywhere else before working in the ER. Now, nowadays there's residency programs where they. Will allow new grads to work in. The ER they'll. They'll have someone training really closely with them just to make sure that they're prepared before they get off of orientation. But in my. Day they didn't allow that for new graduate nurses, so. I was in the so I was in Aurora, which is about 45 minutes West of Chicago and they. They no one would hire me. I mean, nobody would hire me. I was applying. For job after job after job. I remember one interview specifically was in DeKalb area I think and the manager said why do you why should I hire you?
And I got emotional and I started crying because I was just so passionate about, you know, serving the community in that capacity. And I told her, like, this is what I meant to do. I meant to serve people I meant to, to make people feel good and in their worst. Times and she was. So, like visibly irritated that I. Was upset that I was crying.
Oh my gosh.
And emotional. Oh yeah. And she, like quickly was, was telling me. Well, you're not gonna be able to make everyone happy. People come in here upset, and there's nothing you can do about it and just her whole energy, her whole vibe was just like that jaded.
I was gonna say she translated.
You know class. Ohh yeah. Definitely, definitely. I didn't get that job.
Probably for the better, yeah.
I'm glad I didn't. Probably probably for the better. So I actually ended up getting hired at an ER. That was so. I was 45 minutes West of Chicago. This hospital was like 2 hours West of Chicago, so I ended up having to move further W to to take this job. But for me it didn't matter. I didn't. I didn't care where I had to go. I just knew I wanted emergency medicine. I wanted to take care of people for every every type of illness, disease and injury. I wanted to take care of people. From all walks of life, right. Different demographics. I didn't just want to. Take care. Of one you know one gender or you know one. One age group or anything like that. I really wanted a diverse patient population because I I truly felt and feel like that makes me a better, a better nurse and a a more equipped, well equipped nurse. So I I worked in that ER out there in the in that. Very rural area where. It was like 99.8. Percent why? I think it was like one of. 3 black people in the whole city. And so yeah, it was interesting. Surprisingly, I I had good experiences with like neighbors and stuff like that. No one really, you know, bothered me or or or anything like that. And I lived alone, you know? So I was nervous about that, but it worked out fine. So one year and I I I did.
I'm sure you've done thousands of liquid band AIDS in the in the time since the school.
Too great. Yeah. Any issue?
Right. And it's a fun story. Like those the liquid bandages aren't even used very often anymore. It's just I'm just so mad. Yeah, but the things that were not in my scope. Now, now in my scope, right.
There it is scope.
And I'm teaching people how to do them.
Now, hmm. Come full circle moment. We love that. We love that over liquid Band-Aid you started to hit on just kind of naming your perception of safety versus kind of what maybe your experience of safety was and how it kind of sounds. There was, you know, in this first go, being in a rural area South of Chicago that there was there was chance, right, which is inevitable based on queer experience, by park experience, etcetera, which seems like maybe a good place to talk into, like what's name or like, you know, can you share some of the notable experiences, both the highs and the lows? Of working as an emergency room and travel nurse especially, you know, eventually during this onset of a pandemic that, as you've already said, totally jostled the whole definition and concept of what a travelers can do, let alone what the emergency room has looked like since 2020.
Definitely the you know in in the book I share, you know, these little blips of of time and my experiences and interactions encountered with other people. I would say that. The book is probably like 30% of what's actually in my journals. I've they're, you know, for for various reasons, right like.
Some of the stories were just too specific, too identifiable. Some of the stories were involved. Minors were I wasn't, you know, comfortable with even altering them. So for me, I would say and and. This is this is. Something that was present in that rural area and and elsewhere, right, the some of the most. You know progressive areas that you would imagine working in like the LA area where, you know, I had folks saying things like I want, I want a white nurse gonna have a white nurse and that, but that was for my patients, but. The thing is, is that this. Since it's so multifactorial, like I have, you know, racism and bigotry and sexism and and homophobia coming from my patients. But I also have it coming from my coworkers and a lot of those coworkers being physicians, right, who are trained to take care of people.
And so it's it's hard to. It's hard to identify like where right where the issue is because it's it's kind of everywhere and it's not just me who's, you know, a victim of these. These isms is the patients too, right? It's other nurses. It's other healthcare providers as well. I would say that some of the highs have to do with. The advocacy that I was able. To provide for people, for people and their families, and being able to really. Like completely changed the outcome that the patient had, whereas if I wasn't there, just imagining what would have happened to them. So that's probably the, you know, if I if I stopped being a nurse today.
I would be most appreciative for for that, for the the change in outcome that I've been able to provide the people you know, whether that be someone being able to get home safely, someone being able to access the medication that they desperately need. That they have been denied. You know, things like that and and the lows, you know, for for a lot of nurses like death is one of those things that stays with us for long periods of time. But I truly think that. Things that are worse than death, right when you see someone who's visibly in pain, you see someone who's who's distraught, and then you see the person who went to school for over 8 years right to learn how to care for them and to intervene. In these moments and you see that person. Doubting them, you see that person judging them. You see that person actively refusing to take care of them? I think that that's honestly worse than any patient I've seen die. You know, in my career watching people. Be denied the treatment and the care that they deserve. The very minimum you know, care that they deserve because of what they look like because of how they sound when they talk because of where they come from because of their their. You know, outward appearance of their their clothing, you know, whatever watching people be. Mistreated and watching people be dismissed because of that is heartbreaking.
Yeah, it sounds devastating and you have, you know, this front row seat to. That in a way. That, you know, I don't a lot of us, don't you know, I I frequently. You know, name to people. I feel like cause they'll be an article or some kind of story share in some way, shape or form that speaks to a queer trans person's experience or a person of color experience. Especially pregnant black women, right? Like there's a lot of narrative that I think we're finally seeing in abundant form of, like, these are our exceptions to the rule. This tends to be. The rule and this is how things are playing out and for everyone more publicly visible. Story there's probably 100 more right behind it that are very similar across all these different areas and it's one thing to hear those stories, right? And it's one thing to metabolize and kind of act on. It sounds like a whole. Another thing to kind of see it front row seat in plain sight and be kind of within. The machinery that is doing this, I can only imagine.
Yes, yes, it makes it makes me feel complicit, right? And even if I'm pushing back against what's being done or not being done, you know The thing is, is that you get put in this position where? You know that you need to advocate for someone, right? Because if they if you don't. Their outcome is going to be worse, but you also know that if you advocate for this person, in some cases that means the loss of your job. That means it's target on your back and that has been the case for me in a lot of hospitals where, you know, I speak up and then you know, boom, that target is plastered on my back. And I'm labeled, you know, as a troublemaker, as someone who talks back as someone who is. Difficult, you know, to work with or to be around because all because I asked the doctor not to call. The patient. A *****. Right.
Well problem. Well, yes, yes. Right. And so me pointing out like, but then I'm the troublemaker because they're a doctor, right? And I'm just a nurse, so I shouldn't be talking.
Right there, yeah.
Right. How dare I, right? Me again. I'm the problem. And so yes, being a part of a system right where a system. That puts physicians or higher ups in a position to say and do whatever they want without having to take accountability and where nurses can't hold them accountable, it makes it very frustrating and it makes it hard to stay.
What would you say kind of your? Maybe eye opening or kind of awareness originally maybe was built of understanding that health disparities existed, kind of. Where did that start that you feel like has now allowed you to be in these spaces with a certain language and a certain lens to name to folks like now we can't do this. I mean, that example is pretty obvious. We can't really be calling.
Pitches like that's probably that's that should.
Be really obvious.
One, but there's more, I mean.
I know, you know we can name. We could try to name them, but like, I'm sure there's there's certainly more kind of covert. And but still negative impact ways in which. That still manifests without blatantly calling someone an insult. Do you feel like you? Started to build that recognition to make it so that you have this strong ability to advocate in these spaces for your patients and for yourself and for your colleagues, I'm sure.
Yeah, I was. I was fortunate enough in my career to to, not necessarily. We be overwhelmed by bigotry in the beginning, and that's because once I got fired from my job in the ER, I applied to be a medical assistant at Planned Parenthood, and that job was amazing. I worked there for a nursing school and. You know, there's just there's a specific culture of Planned Parenthood, right? Inclusivity, diversity and just acceptance and. So I didn't see right the the healthcare, the the effect of the overt effect of healthcare disparities in that job. I feel like the eye opener was when I was a patient and I had this conversation on another podcast. They asked me what was my first experience of healthcare discrimination and that was when I went to, you know, I I was. In a position where I was having sex, I wanted to go get tested and I was young and so I went to my doctor's office and I and my doctor had been out. So I was seeing another physician that was in house and it was an older white man. Fine, no big deal. It's not anything, you know, super invasive. So he I sit on the bed. He asked me what brings me in. I said I'm here for testing. And he asked me. Well, do you, who do you have? And I was thinking the back right by him asking me that because why? Why does it matter if I'm if I have sex and I'm asking you for testing, then I should. We should just be. Moving this right. Where's the cup?
And pee. Let's go. Right. And so I told him that I have sex with women and people who identify as women and. He, you know, kind of like, threw his hands up, shrugged her shoulders and was like, well, you don't. Need HIV testing? And you know at that point, right?
I'm so young that I don't know. How to even counter that? I don't know what to say to him and I just felt like. There's nothing for me to do except listen to him and take his word for it. And I ended up leaving the appointment without any testing done and instead of using my insurance to get the testing there, I ended up paying out of pocket to get testing at a random clinic.
And you know who didn't accept my insurance because I had an HMO? And so it was. Really frustrating, you know, cause I knew what I needed. I'm asking for what I need and you're denying me that because of my sexuality. And I think that was it for me when I was like, OK, I had to pay really close attention, you know, in in my life as far as. Paying close attention to how people are treating me when I go in for medical services and that just never left me when I became a nurse. Right? So I see myself and everybody I take. Care of regardless of if they're black, regardless of if they're a woman, regardless of if they're queer. I know that everyone is incredibly vulnerable when they're a patient, right? And so just identifying that and being vigilant in the way that people are being treated. You know, if someone comes in and they're intoxicated, they're automatically immediately treated. Just very different than any other patient. And so I almost. Have to play this role of like. I don't want to say like vigilante, but like almost like a like a right, like a mild vigilante or like a security guard for these patients where I have to make sure that they're not being, you know, betrayed by the one person who's, you know, who took an oath, right, to do no harm to them.
Right. I think what you know also strikes me about that already. Asinine exchange with that, like Doctor Who's like, you don't need tested for HIV because that's just not. Possible is that. Like if you in your infinite wisdom weren't already in that space with an awareness that that Doctor was wrong, how someone else could have been misinformed and potentially been at higher risk thinking that they were exempt, and how that then continues to perpetuate this cycle of folks not knowing having the information they need to make informed choices. About their health, and that just is a. Whole another liar, that.
He's ugly, like.
Yes, if you didn't. No, right. You were just going to take it as sacrosanct because this is a doctor. This is someone who's supposed to have authoritative knowledge, and they are incorrect. And that is so bothersome.
Yeah, it's terrifying. It's terrifying. The harm that can be done.
This is so bad.
And all it takes is 1 encounter.
Yeah, it does. You know, and so this almost will surprise me that you're you're kind of like villain era your villain era originated with some **** that Doctor Who said something that was all off base and incorrect because like I said, for every one story. There's dozens and dozens and dozens more, and I think that, you know, as I live in a rural a more rural area and I think, I think an encouragement that I give folks a lot is like to pay attention to these health systems in these spaces because the more the longer you look at them, the. It's like I spy book like the more you look at it, the more nonsense you find. And it's like, oh, this is all part of a larger issue. Like it's not just you, it's not personalized. To you, it's just that these. Systems don't know how to handle. Marginalized people. And we gotta figure it out. Yeah, well, yes.
Exactly because they weren't. They weren't built, they weren't built. For marginalized people, right? So yeah, a lot of people are still having a hard time. Figuring it all out.
So let's talk about this, you know, cute. Little project you. Did this really, you know, nonchalant thing where you went and? Published a whole last book about what? Sounds like a combination of personal anecdotes, some commentary and points made about these health disparities we're talking about. So let's talk about just. Have the the impetus for the book, kind of how you landed on the the you know, Journal of the Black Queer nurse. How did this come to be? Where did this come from and tell? Us a bit about the book, yeah.
General Blackwood Nurse started as literal journals, small little books that I kept in my pocket and to be to be transparent. They didn't not. Start off as like. Me expressing my feelings or reflecting. They started off as just important information that I didn't want to forget as. A new nurse. You know, things like certain drugs that you know were. Important to give. You the difference between different medication things like that and so I. Started using it for that reason, but then you know I started to again just hear these, you know, I was a fly on the wall maybe like I am. I I seem like I'm not paying attention but I'm always listening. Right. And so I'm hearing these doctors and these PA's and these. These nurses say things that I feel like. Are inappropriate, right? Or or racist or homophobic? And I got to a point where I I was like, you know what, I'm writing these these things down. Because I don't want to forget that that they were said. I don't know. I I had no plan on, you know, publishing, you know, this this book when I started journaling, it was truly just a way for me to reflect on different experiences, different exchanges. You know, sometimes it was what, a patient. Said to me. Or you know what a patient said to their family member or what the doctor said to a patient. It's just very memorable experiences that, you know, in the hospital you don't have the opportunity to just, like, I need a minute. I I just need a minute to think and reflect. Like, that's not a thing in the hospital. Unfortunately, someone dies. You, you, you tag them. You, you bag their body, you fill out the paperwork and you take care of the next patient. There's no time to do anything. It's no time for introspection. I knew that I needed to make time for it, even if that was at home. So that's why I started my journals. And you know, year after year, I'm like going. I'm literally going through these journals and I have a stack of them. And as I'm traveling throughout the country, I'm noticing, wow, these places aren't so different. Right that that. You know, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, xenophobia, it it. Crosses every single state line in this country. It crosses it. It transcends through every hospital that I've worked at, and I'm like it. It's it's not following me. Like it's just here, right? It it it it exists. It exists within the the foundation of these hospitals. And these emergency rooms. And so that's when I decided. That these stories, you know, a variation of of these stories needed to be told. And I can't. You know, I'm telling these stories, like in passing to, like, nursing students, to make up. I I tell stories a lot to. To make a point or to help really, you know, solidify a a concept. And as I'm telling these these stories, they're like, no, no way. There's no way that happened. Right. And so. After hearing that so many times, I'm like they really can't believe me, you know? And so I'm like, if they can't believe me as nursing. Students, right. What about the?
The world. Right. You know, they don't know what happens in the ER. They don't know what happens to grandma when she's there by herself when you're not there to to protect her. You know, they don't know. And so that's. Why I decided? You know what? I'm taking these, these stories. I'm going to change them up a bit so I don't violate. Anyone's privacy. And I'm going to to try to publish a book and it worked, you know, and now conversations are being had that I've been begging right to to have for, for years and people are. Becoming aware of these injustices that they didn't even know existed in the world before and and that's all I ever wanted. By sharing these stories was to really open people's eyes so that they can sort of, you know, just for a second, imagine what it's like for marginalized people. To be that vulnerable and to be in a hospital and you know, realizing that we're not all treated the same. You may think you may assume. That everyone goes in the hospital and they're treated the the best. You know, they're given the best care that they deserve. The the doctors are working as hard as they can for them, but the sad and the the terrifying truth is that they're not, and depending on what your skin color is depending on. What genitals you have, depending on who you're having sex with, that all can affect your health outcomes. It it can affect how long you live. It can affect how soon you die and it's it's it's terrifying.
So yeah, just a simple book, right? Just a simple.
I just you know, I.
This was something.
That I shared with you again about my my good friend who does nursing and is a gem of gem of a friend of mine who, you know, I told you, she'll post, you know, on a damn near daily basis, regardless of where she is or what she's up to, you know, no incriminating information. But she will. List out and. Exchanged akin to being asked for a different nurse or she. So you know, be hit on on a regular basis and someone will pursue it a little harder when she's like, Nope, I'm taken and I'm a lesbian or I'm married to a woman or my wife, my wife. You know how to change this thing?
You know she'll post on a regular basis and like it's stuff that you can't even you can't even. And it's like you're not even you're giving us the tip of the iceberg. **** this just. Happens to be. What you were able to type out on a quick little, you know, walk down the hallway to. The bathroom, you know, like this.
What else is?
Going on and it makes me sad for. You know, I I don't know the numbers and maybe you do, but the numbers don't matter. We know anecdotally that like LGBTQ folks are well represented, technically they're they're not paid attention to, but they are well represented in hair fields, right? They're saying caretaking of a large variety. Right. We are thrush in those areas. And see some **** and hear some **** in a wide way.
And so you know, when I shared with you about my friend posting it, you're like as she should. And I was like, yes, because it's definitely. Throwing this wrench in what has been kind of this more covert common experience of folks in in either on the patient side or on the, you know, your person with multiple marginalized identities working in the healthcare field hearing stuff. And I'm sure there's a reason that you know you were, you know. Someone to say something in front of you cuz they're. Not they're not thinking about you in the room.
Yep, it literally, literally they're like alright.
No, I'm just like, who are you? Like you're. Just a fixture in. The room. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Ohh it's a fact. It's a fact.
So just this important project of like documenting these experiences in a way that can then you know like you said you had no intention necessarily of like I'm gonna start writing a book like I'm going to jot this down for either personal purposes for informative purposes for just data, you know. And I think that. The pandemic in many ways has informed like document everything you know. Put this on blast if it matters and put. This out in the world to kind of start the. So I guess I'm curious too. So it's been about two months, right? It came out in May.
The book The journal came out in May, it's been about two months. What has been the reception? What has been the feedback? How have folks received this so far? What has come your way? What are? What are some of the conversations have already started around this being? In the world.
So the response has been overwhelmingly positive. I of course expected and still expect there to be outrage, right and even like. You know you, you know, you said that. You just you've seen some of my tick tocks, you know. I've had to block so many people from TikTok because I've gotten so many hate messages.
This and you know, things like oh, no one wants to read it. No one. No one cares that you're. Black and queer. Why would you write a book about being black and queer? You know that doesn't matter, right? Right. Right, right or. Like you know, some people are have said things like I would rather die than be taken care of by a queer and this and that. And you know, right, right. Literally, I'm like, well, not without a DNR baby, but anyway. Now, without a DNR I have had, I've been invited to Johns Hopkins, which was a pretty amazing experience. I have an event where I am speaking to a a class of diversity class at Harvard in October. I've, you know, been on a number of podcasts. I've had great conversations with great people. I really am just so grateful that it's been received as well as it has and that people are amplifying it I. Hope that it continues to just, you know, grow. I hope that people continue. To learn about. It I hope that people who have the platform right, people who. Millions of people who are following them and want to know their every, you know, every move. I want those people to really take this book and use it, use their platform to amplify it because the importance of these stories can't, it cannot be understated and Healthcare is one of those things where. Folks don't really, unless they work in it right or unless they're constantly. A A patient or involved in it somehow, right family. They don't really think about it, but there's no time for that. There's no time to not consider healthcare and the harm that's done within the walls of these hospitals every single day. You know, we hear about, you know, there's this, this this podcast called the Retrievals where this. Nurses stealing the fentanyl from patients who are getting IVF, there's, you know, that show on Netflix, the good nurse for that guy was literally killing patients. You know, you hear, you hear so much and this this stuff is really romantic. And and amplified and promoted all across the country. And you know, lots of, you know, money is. Made off of it. And it's entertainment, you know to an extent. But when it comes to important things like talking about racism and healthcare, when we talk about. The the poor health outcomes of queer and trans folks because they feel like they can't go to the doctor because the last. Time they went, they. Were treated poorly. We start to talk about that stuff. And the the outcomes that we experience because of it, nobody wants to amplify that kind of work. And so I really want to hold people accountable for and it doesn't have to be my work. It doesn't have to be my book. You know, when we talk about. Medical racism. I always mentioned Harriet Washington's book medical apartheid. I I need drop that book every chance I get right because it's my responsibility as a person who. Wants to advocate for. Change to recommend resources that way and so I really I want to see this book blow up and not for me. I don't make. I don't make much money off this book. My publisher is is small, right? They're, you know, they're not in. They're not in the business of, you know, trying to make money. They're in the business of trying to change the world. And so I want this book to blow up so that. We can change the world.
And that's common notions, correct is that further got it?
There's common notions, yeah.
OK, that's where the.
I have medical. Apartheid on my to read list.
It's been there for a while. I have a lot of books on my to read list. I'm a heavy reader, so like it'll be there for a while. It'll come into my hands when it's supposed to. There's another book that has come to mind this whole time that I know I've talked on this podcast before, but it's called the care we dream of by Xena. I can't. I can't remember if it's Sherman or Sherman. I always mess it up, but it's kind of this anthology of her own work. But then some guest essays talking about different areas of, like, health and Wellness from a very. Very, you know, non health system perspective and so. Yes, that's not something you've read yet. I think you'd find it very, very interesting, because the whole premise, you know, she starts this book with this really like, just jaw-dropping question of like, what would it feel like to enjoy an interaction with like a doctor or like in a in a doctor's visit. And it's like, oh, wow like that.
Did you know for most clear?
And folks like that doesn't even feel like it's in the realm of possibility. And yet, you know, we can work towards that. We can find these, you know, different pathways. Is there any like very? Tactical or like? Actionable, specific things that you think you would under score either from the book or kind of in your experience that like are low hanging fruit, definite things that should be focused on to improve, you know, these health disparity issues or just kind of an experience for a person in the emergency room or in any. You know, interaction with healthcare system.
Honestly, there's just. There's just one and it's listen, you know, listen to your patient, period.
Like there's no, you know, so often I see doctors and nurses, even, you know, text and things like that talking over a patient. And because they're so busy trying to get their message out. They're missing the entire message that the patient is trying to convey to them. And so, you know, we move quickly in, in healthcare, especially in the emergency department and that's understandable, right, because there's a lot of people that need to be taken care of, and I've, I've even, like, I've gotten in trouble at hospitals, right, because they say that I've taken too long in the patients room and things like that. But yes, yes, this is real. We have to listen. We have to. Uhm, I've had a patient who was trying to like in code tell me that they were being abused, right? And it was because I slowed down and it was because I listened and let her talk and allowed her to express the body language that she was trying to express. That's how we were able to figure out that she was. With her abuse her, you know. Listen, listen to your patients. It could. It could truly save their lives.
As someone who you know exists on the patient side of things and has experienced a lot of what we've talked about today, either the the quickness and missing things, not listening being you know. Dismissed because of XYZ reason. Yeah, like the listening thing would be a game changer. And so that sign. That yes to that.
Thank you. Yes.
Retweet to that, you know, and I.
I work with a. Lot of young folks too, like, you know, as an educator, like I said. And it's it's again, it's. For every one story I hear from a student who you know is trying to find an affirmative or just reasonable provider for a wide variety of things, whether it's on campus or off campus, like it's the same deal it's, you know, this wasn't a good fit. This wasn't a good match. Now I'm getting, you know, ran around the ringer. And just like not.
Getting the answers. You need, you know, and sometimes the answers don't come fast because there's something particular and it really matters if that, you know, that practitioner is going to take the time to continue helping you seek the answer. And this is going to be a mutually, you know. Beneficial relationship or it's going?
To be I'm cranking you through. I'm currently rewatching house. Looks like for all of the problematic shift that is for sure taking place in the show, I decided I wanted to rewatch it from start to finish and season one. There's this big wig who comes in and he's like I'm gonna donate $100 million to this hospital. But you gotta follow my rules. And he's very business. Minded and oriented and he wants how. To be out of there because he's wasting money because he's taking his time and he's doing this deep investigative kind of figuring out what is this very rare or specific or complex issue that's happening with this person.
And so he's saving maybe one person a week, which, by the businessman standards is not sufficient and is not working on a business model that he has in mind. So eventually that man takes his money, but they keep the person who's taking the necessary time to look into a person's experience. So. Alright, still a little problematic, but ultimately yeah. So like.
Like when you.
Take the time you know to really look into the details and take the proper time. You can unearth things that will ultimately improve, you know, someone's health outcomes and life outcomes and etcetera. And for queer and trans folks bipop folks, women, children, etcetera like.
That there's going to be. I I anticipate you know, I'm curious from your. Perspective this this little. Ballooning is kind of happening of. Like we keep bringing up all these stories, we're naming it outright. Folks are realizing that they're not alone in feeling dismissed and gaslighted in their experiences in the doctor's office, and vice versa. Folks who are in the healthcare field are saying you're not paying us enough. This is not sustainable. We can't care about people if we if you don't care about us, is what we're also seeing across the nation right now. You know where does? Where does the burst happen? Right? When does it fall out from underneath itself? You know, what is, what does it look like? What does this pivot look like into a more just and truly? Patient and person focused healthcare system.
You know, how do we get there? What is like, what is on the horizon as we see things continue to be really unsettled from this pandemic.
Definitely we. I mean what's most important is that we keep having these conversations, you know, having the conversations brings awareness, right? And again, there are so many people who are going about their day-to-day with 0 awareness of what's going on around them, you know. So I think that it's going to be really important. Us to keep pushing with this with. Information to keep pressuring folks to call things out as they see them. I think that us telling our stories really does make folks feel more comfortable in doing the same, and the more the more awareness we bring to these issues, the more people are going to be held accountable. And if people aren't being held accountable, then we're going to hold the people who are supposed to be holding them accountable accountable, right? And so at some point. You know this. It has to collapse, it has to. And you're right. Nurses are not going to stay in a field where they're not getting paid a wage that allows them to feed their families where they're not getting paid a wage that they can't work, you know, a normal amount of hours. Without not being able to pay their. Bills, this is. The nursing has so much potential. Healthcare healthcare system has so much potential and I really think that it's going to take us again, you know, talking about it out loud and being unapologetic in the way that we approach it, calling people out in in real time. You know, retaliation is a thing, right? But retaliation yields if someone retaliates, right? They end up being held accountable for doing so.
So we have to be we have to be fearless. In the way that. We approach these medical providers and I'm not saying like go up and like. Get someone or like call someone * ****. I'm saying, like systematically right and and professionally or whatever approach them call them out, see how it's received. If it's not, then take the proper steps to follow up, you know, send the e-mail, see. See everybody. Have your receipts have everything documented because this this can only go on for so long.
No work continues.
Yes it is.
I want to give space and time. If you have anything else you want to add before we put this in a nice shiny bro and wrap up this conversation that I could certainly have for hours. Is there anything else you want to share? Add a name for folks here.
I'm going to name drop a podcast called Distrust and Disparities they. One of the the hosts is a nurse and also a black nurse at black travel nurse and the other is a a community outreach professional and they every week talk about, you know, something else that some, some topic that affect. Bipac folks in healthcare and you know, one of their episodes that really resonated with me was when they were talking, they were talking about testing and the stigma surrounding STI testing and that and it really made me think of that experience that I had with that doctor. And and and you know, the more the more conversations that we hear that we see ourselves in, it makes us, you know, it just slippery. It's us. So you know we're a community. We have to, you know, keep doing the work together and really pushing each other. That's the only way we're going to get free.
A word, Brittany, this has been spectacular. I'm so glad to have had the time to chat with you. Very interested in seeing how your book journal, the Black Queen Nurse fuels some upcoming conversations. It's just, you know, it's in, it's in its infancy, it has, it has room to really shake **** up. So I'm excited to see what that means for you. So thank you.
Thank you so much.
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