Managing both her role as a band six ward nurse with the role of Purple Network Chair, Marcella understands the importance of being authentic in times of challenge. Her story, from never sharing information about her disability, to being a force for change is a must read.
Marcella has worked in the Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust since 2012, who were originally unaware of that she had Asperger syndrome because she did not want to share that information. “It had a big impact on me. I was trying to fit with what I thought everyone else was doing.” Using this experience of struggling to be authentic whilst her workplace oblivious to her needs, Marcella reflected on what could be done to make things better for others - and decided to tell her employer about her disability. “I thought “How do I make a difference so that nobody else is going to have to go through this?” I wanted people to be able to have those conversations with their manager about their disability or illness, but if I wanted other people to do that, I’d have to do that myself.”
Marcella’s decision was a tough one to execute - even after sharing that she had Asperger's to her manager, Marcella was reluctant for other colleagues to know. Not long after, an email was sent to the Trust’s employees to inform them of the creation of a disability network. “I didn’t want to go to the meeting because then people would know that I have a disability.” Luckily Marcella did go, and by attending she started on a journey from which she has never looked back, now chairing the Purple Network which has over 300 members.
“I didn’t want my story to be one of pity but one of strength in disability.” However the response of Marcella sharing her story was really positive, helping others to also be authentic. “People were talking about their own disabilities and how they hadn’t opened up.”
In 2018, Marcella attended an open ‘Purple Stories’ workshop, run by PurpleSpace. “I wanted to have more structure in telling my truth - getting guidance on what aspects of my stories to focus on.” By getting some key advice and tips about how to tell you story with impact – what to emphasis, what to leave out, Marcella feels it left her more confident and has subsequently helped the steering group too. Using a template provided at Purple Stories, Marcella encouraged the group to share their own story and advised them on how to strengthen them, so that the group could then help others. “It got me to think “What do we need to do in the future?” and find out how to engage others to step out and share their story.”
Purple Stories also gave Marcella the opportunity to hear from other members in the network/resource group leader community - outside of her own workplace and helping her to feel joined to a real movement for change. “It was really helpful to hear other peoples’ stories - it offered a safe environment to practice.”
“Disability confidence is still quite a new thing, so it’s always good to be able to go on PurpleSpace’s Member Zone and ask a random question to another network. PurpleSpace also helps me to clarify the role of our network and where the responsibilities lie, which helps us to be more focused with our work.”
Sincerity is vital for Marcella - especially because of the way it can help others. “If I go into a training session, I’ll specify the requirements that I need, or might even specify my disability. For me, it’s freeing, but then it also helps others in the room who are struggling and don’t want to speak up. The more you open up those conversations, you realise that there’s other people struggling and you can help them. But if you don’t have those conversations, you won’t get there. I think I’ve taken openness to the maximum.”
Throughout this difficult period as we navigate COVID-19, Marcella is on the front line as a nurse. And during this period, Marcella sees authenticity as central, and encourages others to be as true to themselves as possible. “You can influence policy. I think that’s where we’ve done really well because we really get to question things and open up people’s mind to a new way of thinking and considering others. It’s important to bring that real voice to the table at different levels.”
Marcella’s journey from feeling conflicted with sharing information to one where she is able to bring her authentic self to work- especially in times of challenge - has helped Marcella to thrive and lead others.
Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust Fact Box:
- Established in 2000 and became a foundation trust in 2007
- Three staff diversity networks
- Purple Network created in 2018 following a “Starting Out” workshop delivered by PurpleSpace
- 100 employees in the Purple Network
- 4500 employees across the trust
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