Journal of a Black Queer Nurse

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    Britney Daniels

    Publisher: Common Notions

    Year: 2023

    Format: Paperback

    Size: 192 pages

    ISBN: 9781942173779

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In this searing, honest memoir, a Black queer emergency-room nurse works the front lines of care during COVID-19.

 

“Can I have a white nurse?” the patient asked Britney Daniels.

“Sorry ma'am,” Britney replied, “we are fresh out of white nurses.”

Britney Daniels is a Black, masculine-presenting, tattooed lesbian from a working-class background. For the last five years, she has been working as an emergency-room nurse. She began Journal of a Black Queer Nurse as a personal diary, a tool to heal from the day-to-day traumas of seeing too much and caring too much.

Hilarious, gut-wrenching, and infuriating by turns, these stories are told from the perspective of a deeply empathetic, no-nonsense young nurse, who highlights the way race, inequality, and a profit-driven healthcare system make the hospital a place where systemic racism is lived. 

Whether it is giving one’s own clothes to a homeless patient, sticking up for patients of color in the face of indifference from white doctors and nurses, or nursing one’s own back pain accrued from transporting too many bodies as the morgues overflowed during the pandemic, Journal of a Black Queer Nurse reveals the ways in which care is much more than treating a physical body and how the commitment to real care—care that involves listening to and understanding patients in a deeper sense—demands nurses, especially nurses of color, must also be warriors.

About the Author
Britney Daniels, RN, MSN is a Black queer travel nurse and social advocate who has worked in hospital emergency rooms all over the US. Daniels holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in nursing with a concentration in nursing leadership. She is currently working on her Doctorate of Nursing Practice degree. Britney lives in Chicago with her wife, Saria, and their two dogs, Batman and Momo. This is her first book.
What People Are Saying

“Britney Daniels' voice is one of the most important you will hear all year. This book is not only a testament to the resilience of our nation's hardest-working lifesavers but also a reminder of the essentiality of centering Black queer voices in our national discourse. Britney's greatest gift is the reminder that positivity, perseverance, empathy, and compassion always prevail over the forces that try to divide and oppress, and that love is the universal truth that will lead each of us to find happiness.” — Jeremy Blacklow, former Director of Entertainment, GLAAD 

Journal of a Black Queer Nurse reminds readers of the importance of centering the voices of Black women, and specifically those of Black queer women, as we share stories about the challenges we must work together to overcome. Equal parts personal narrative and sharing stories about the medical-industrial complex, Britney’s work highlights the power of love, the importance of inclusion, and the opportunities each of us has to interrogate and push past limiting, socially constructed boundaries that are designed to prevent us from bearing witness, finding comfort in who we are and how we move through the world, and telling our stories. I’m thankful for this offering and for Britney’s sharing of her gifts.” —Dr. David J. Johns, Executive Director, National Black Justice Coalition 

“There is no doubt that Journal of A Black Queer Nurse is timely on at least two fronts: reflecting on the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic on the healthcare profession, while illuminating the intersection of race, gender, and sexuality on a healthcare professional. However, this book is not only of import to nurses or to queer people because it so wonderfully explores a most universal story of what it is to be human in unprecedented times.” —Dr. Sharon L. Moore 

Table of Contents

Prologue

Chapter One: Where I Began

Chapter Two: Stepping Out 

Chapter Three: Not Too Far 

Chapter Four: White Supremacy and Palm Trees 

Chapter Five: “Can I Have a White Nurse?” 

Chapter Six: Million-Dollar Dilapidation 

Chapter Seven: “She’s Not Crazy” 

Chapter Eight: “Is That a Roach?” 

Chapter Nine: The Reaper 

Chapter Ten: “I Freed the Slaves” 

Epilogue

EXCERPT

Note: Details of the stories shared in this book have been altered to protect the privacy of patients, families, healthcare providers, and healthcare organizations.

PROLOGUE

Black girl. That's what my classmates called me in elementary school. In fact, it was all they called me. I heard it on the playground, in the classroom, and when we sat in our afternoon reading circle. I knew it wasn't my name, but there was no escaping that that was who I was to them. After all, I was the only child of color in my class. The school had decided to place my twin sister in another room.

It hadn’t been an easy life so far. My twin sister and I were born very premature. We had one older sister, seven years ahead of us. Our biological parents separated early on. My dad traveled the world during his thirty-two-year career in the Army, so my mom was our primary caregiver.

Our mother had moved us to a predominantly white suburb because she wanted us to have access to better education. Before moving to the suburbs, we grew up on the South Side of Chicago, and we were only allowed to play outside in the fenced-in backyard; we were not allowed on the front porch without an adult. In my mother’s mind, getting the same schooling as the white kids would provide my sisters and me with more and better opportunities—more than she had ever had, anyway. But there were sacrifices to be made. Living here meant sleeping on mattresses stacked atop milk crates. It meant hot dogs and pork and beans, meal after meal. It meant that gassing up our van and driving to the South Side of Chicago to see our family would qualify as a “vacation.”

I can vividly remember how desperately—even back then—I wanted to escape and see the rest of the country. As I grew into a young adult, that desire only became stronger, and it expanded to include the rest of the world. So, in 2016, when I found myself tightly gripping my pen, desperately taking notes under the fluorescent classroom lights as I listened to the guest speaker talk about her experiences as a travel nurse, I knew instantly that this was the life for me.

Indeed, I had never been so sure of anything. And though I had never traveled more than a few miles from home, I knew that somewhere out there were palm trees I wanted to touch, mountains I wanted to see, and crisp ocean water I wanted to feel. What I didn't see was that something else was waiting for me out in the unknown. It was something much darker—something that I couldn't touch, see or feel. It was something that would challenge my very existence, let alone my choice of profession.

Oppression, after all, isn't tangible. It isn't something you can see when you walk into a room. Still, it followed me everywhere I went, like a stalker watching my every move. If I really tried, I could hear it whisper, "black girl." Was I nervous about embarking on my journey? Absolutely. Could I have predicted that a deadly pandemic would soon exacerbate and intensify all of the difficulties I faced? Not at all. Was I intimidated enough to give up? Hell no.

In my short career as an emergency room nurse, I have experienced some of the most remarkable and challenging moments of my life, like the woman being chased by the cartel who needed help finding her dogs, but the doctors didn’t believe her. I believed her. I’ll tell you all about her later. Or, like all the times I was boldly called a “nigger” by patients. They've been the kind of moments that cry out to be shared—to be learned from. So, I've endeavored to do just that through this journal. The project started off as a way for me to take notes on important information to prevent mistakes. I’d jot my notes down in a little faux-leather-covered notebook, small enough to fit in the side pocket of my navy-blue water-resistant cargo scrubs. But over time, I found that my entries wouldn't confine themselves to technical information. Over time, my writing gravitated towards those experiences that left me with strong emotions. Years later, I realized that these stories, or at least a variation of them, needed to be shared.

I remember how when I was little, my grandmother would sit all of us kids down and ask us what we wanted to be when we grew up. She tells me that my answer was always the same. I would throw my hands in the air and exclaim, “I just want to be Britney!” And so I have filled this book with experiences that I have witnessed in my years of being, well, Britney. This is the story of a Black, masculine-presenting, tattooed lesbian and her head-first crusade into the nursing world, the COVID-19 pandemic, and oppression. It’s a story about integrity, perseverance, and triumph. For me, triumph for a Black, queer, working-class nurse reveals itself in the form of being able to confidently and fearlessly advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves. Daily, I arm myself with more knowledge so that I can provide the most effective and intentional care for the people that are relying on us. I—we—refuse to be silenced, devalued, or disregarded.

Still, the story is not really about me, per se. It's about all of us. I want the patients I've helped to know they are seen, loved, and understood. I want medical professionals I've worked with to reflect on the care they provide to people every day and to want to do better. I want everyone who has ever cared about anyone to know that they matter, and that their existence is recognized and valued.

This is not a book for nurses.

This is a book for everyone.

This is a book for you.

Tags: Black Liberation ....... Britney Daniels ....... Common Notions ....... feminism ....... health ....... queer liberation ....... racism ....... united states .......