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My CUH story – Ruby Lopez

Ruby, a senior sister in our neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), says she is “a person of colour with a passion and vision for equality”. Here she shares her CUH story.

Ruby is stood outside The Rosie Hospital, wearing a white smock top. She has long dark hair and is smiling at the camera.
Ruby Lopez, senior sister in our neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)

“I joined CUH in 2004 as a healthcare support worker without a Nursing and Midwifery Council pin. I was one of the many overseas nurses recruited from the Philippines. To be in a country where the culture and form of education are so different was very daunting to start with. But we were welcomed and supported beyond our expectations on our journey from the time we had the interview in the Philippines.

“After becoming a registered nurse in the UK, I passed the module High Dependency and Intensive Care of the New Born to become a qualified speciality nurse (band 6 nurse). I am now a band 7 with special interest in risk/patient safety and I’m currently the medication safety lead in the unit.

“I am also a Royal College of Nursing learning representative. With this role, I support the learning and career development of members in the workplace so they can deliver safe and effective nursing care.”

A member of staff who joined the NICU team at CUH at the start of the pandemic said of Ruby:

“Thank you for your help and support during the pandemic. You made me feel that Addenbrooke’s is my home away from home, by treating me as one of your family when I most needed it.”

Ruby is passionate about diversity and inclusion. She comments:

“Being an overseas nurse, I developed a strong interest in equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) and joined the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) network and the cultural ambassador programme. As an active member of the BAME network, I work alongside the committee embracing and championing the EDI agenda within our organisation, where the working environment must be free from discrimination, harassment or victimisation, where everyone is treated with respect and dignity, has equal opportunities for career progression and is able to fulfil their full potential.

“The role of the cultural ambassador is to sit as an equal part within the investigation team or decision making panel to identify, explore, and challenge discrimination or any cultural biases. Since the launch of the cultural ambassador role, we have seen a decline in the rate of BAME staff reaching the formal disciplinary process.

With support from Trust leaders, the Equality Diversity and Inclusion Team, senior nurses and the hospital’s BAME (Black And Minority Ethnic) network – Ruby is helping to make changes at CUH.

She began by organising a career development webinar to provide practical information for staff in her division.

I had to make staff aware of the development opportunities already being offered and signpost them to other career resources. People have since told me they had no idea these things existed. Our staff are busy, tired and stressed, they just hadn’t had time to look.

Ruby was also keen to build confidence.

“I wanted to help staff focus on how to overcome challenges as a person from a different background. We included a session on the lived experiences of two staff who are working in senior roles at bands 7 and 8b. What they said was powerful and really hit home. They’d faced challenges getting where they are now, but they inspired those attending to pursue what they previously perceived as impossible in terms of career progression and development.”

The webinar covered other issues, including inequality and inequity of access and opportunity, capacity and staffing challenges, funding constraints, practical advice on appraisals, networking, mentoring, interviews and completing applications.

Just a few weeks after the webinar, after seeking support for application writing and interview prep, several staff have been promoted and one has secured a place on an advanced practitioner course.

Following the success of one session, Ruby is rolling out the event across the Trust.

This is only one project, one step toward opening many opportunities for our staff from minority ethnic backgrounds. I’m confident that with the support of Trust leaders, this can be transformative.

Ruby works in our neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Neonatal refers to the first 28 days of life.

Talking about her role, Ruby says:

“There is no typical day in NICU. No one knows what a 12-hour shift can bring, but like most nurses and doctors I start my day knowing that I will be part of a team that will make a difference to a family and their newborn throughout their roller-coaster journey.

“The activities in NICU vary greatly from one day to another. In one day alone we can see all of the cases written in a neonatal textbook. It can go from attending to neonatal emergency bleeps for high risk babies, babies with a congenital abnormality or very preterm deliveries such as 22 or 23 weeks, to sometimes attending to normal term pregnancies where there have been complications during delivery.

“On other days we don't hear the emergency bleep going off, which often means we can have a long chat with parents and listen to the stories that take them away from the stressful environment they’re in - even for just a moment. We get to see our family before bed or maybe have dinner with them because we’re able to go home on time.”

At the end of each shift, no matter what it was like, we really appreciate the kind of team we work with. From our matron to the auxiliary staff, who are not only skilled and knowledgeable in their own fields, but are also compassionate, dedicated, and team-players. I call them my family and I am so proud of them all.

“As nurse in charge, I coordinate with delivery unit staff about their deliveries, report to matron and our division safety team, ensure that allocation within rooms has a safe staffing skill mix, and update staff on current issues within the unit or as they arise. I also get referrals from other neonatal units in the region. As a NICU in a large neonatal network in the East of England, we do our best to make sure that each baby gets the right care in the right unit.

“What brings great sense of pride and satisfaction in my work is being able to assist parents on their first cuddles, taking that first family picture, capturing the joy in their faces and that look of full admiration. Assisting them on their first nappy change, helping mum on her first time to hand express or use breast pumps, and teaching parents how to feed their babies are all such special moments. Sharing the moment mum’s face lights up with pride and joy when those tiny drops of milk for her little one come are one of the memories we get to celebrate with them. Every milestone in their little one’s journey is also a milestone for us. We are over the moon if we hear the ringing of the bell before they leave the unit, meaning their baby is going HOME. Having their photos sent to us on their babies' first birthday celebrations are extra joy for us. Although we also do enjoy the chocolates and birthday cakes they send us too!”