Nursing was never on Portia Wofford’s radar. She was interested in politics and initially pursued a career in forensic science, and though she knew a lot of nurses growing up — her mom’s best friend, her great aunt, her grandmother — it never dawned on her that nursing was something she could pursue. During college, however, she experienced a life-changing shift.
“My freshman year of college, when we got out for Christmas break, my grandmother died, and I ended up in the hospital in the ICU for about two weeks. It was a very traumatic experience, and I was not able to go back to school the next semester, but the nurses I had in the ICU were phenomenal. I never really knew what a nurse did — I saw them on t.v., but I had never been in the hospital before and experienced that one-to-one. They were so compassionate and went above and beyond,” she said. “One of my nurses found out I loved to write and he bought me a journal so I could write about the experience.”
So when it came time for Portia to decide what her next step was, she knew exactly where she was needed. Fast forward several years and Portia is not only a successful clinical nurse — she is also the owner of her own writing business, The Write Nurse, and a mentor to many navigating both the burn out and possibilities for different work in nursing.
“I always loved writing…it took me out of my reality…but I didn’t think I could make a career out of it,” she said. “I always wanted to be that soccer mom on the sidelines cheering for my son, and I was looking for something to supplement my income so I could have more time with him. From there, I started a small blog about my home health journey, and then I decided to reach out to different platforms to ask about becoming a freelance writer. I landed my first gig, and from there, I was able to take those samples to other platforms, build my writing business, and give myself more time with my son.”
Now, if you pay attention to content in the nursing world, you see Portia’s byline everywhere — and for good reason! As a Black woman in healthcare and the writing field, she’s more than earned her spot as one of the industry’s top writers.
Portia said being a nurse in 2020 has been exhausting — with COVID, more and more nurses are experiencing burnout, and as a Black woman, she’s found the social climate to be incredibly draining. Portia said at work, she often has to hide her true feelings while caring for her patients and both witnessing and experiencing microagressions and racism on a daily basis.
Portia said that as the mother of a Black son, she has been painfully aware of the experience so often thrust upon Black men and boys in America, and because of that, she has been talking with their son about racism since he was 5-years-old. In May after the murder of George Floyd, those conversations became even more frequent.
“My son is 12 now, and he’s at that age where he can go out without his dad and me. I’m always super anxious, and I never really want to let him out of my sight. We’ve talked to him about being a Black man in America since he was little. As a parent, you don’t want to have that conversation about racism, about how no matter how good and kind he is, he still will be targeted,” she said. “Even navigating work, you kind of have to keep your feelings hidden. You’re angry and upset and frustrated, but you have to be at work with a smile on your face. When you’re a nurse, you’re respected a bit more in your scrubs, but you still have to carry the burden.
Calls to Action for non-Black nurses:
- Educate yourself. Don’t let being a product of your environment be your excuse for not being aware, and don’t rely on other Black coworkers to educate you.
- Check your racism and your own biases. This is the only way you can be a true advocate for your patients.
- If you consider yourself an ally, check the people around you. Hold others accountable and call out racism when you see it.
Calls to Action for Black nurses:
- Find out what your workplace is doing to support you. If they don’t have anything in the works and want you to help create a plan, bill them. Reclaim your time, and know your worth!
- Take care of yourself. We need to be mentally-fit to care for our patients, but more than that, Black nurses deserve to be cared for in the same ways that they care for everyone else.
How to become a nurse writer:
- What is your niche? Figure out what you want to write, and don’t be afraid to explore new things.
- Who do you want to write for? Find out what types of clients you want to serve, whether that be writing for the community as a journalist, pursuing higher education companies, or writing blogs and articles.
- Find your people. You’re going to need a strong support system or a mentor. Take a course, join a membership, or a free group like Portia’s Nurses Who Write Free FB group.
LINKS & RESOURCES MENTIONED TODAY:
- Diversity in Healthcare: What You Need to Know Right Now by Portia Wofford for Florence Health
- Portia’s Facebook group, Nurses Who Write
- How to Be an Anti-Racist Nurse, Episode #006
- Connect with Portia on Instagram and Twitter @thewritenurse and check out her website here
- Workshop all about how to use LinkedIn to create your space in the professional world – now available as on-demand video training. Check it out here!
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