Last week, North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust (NCIC) marked International Transgender Day of Visibility by sharing the story of staff nurse Rachael Ridley.

The day, which took place on Wednesday 31st March, is dedicated to celebrating transgender people and raising awareness of discrimination faced by transgender people worldwide, as well as a celebration of their contributions to society.

Rachael represents the Trust at national events and champions diversity. She transitioned and underwent surgery in 2007.

She recently told her story to the Nursing Standard when they published an article about what it’s like to be a transgender nurse in the NHS and how workplaces can support gender diversity.

Rachael, who works in trauma and orthopaedics at The Cumberland Infirmary, is also a learning representative for the Royal College of Nursing. She said: “I’ve had articles published before but this one was a different stance on it.”

Since Rachael’s transition, Trust policies have moved on. "We now have a Gender Diversity and Inclusion policy and LGBT+ staff network and LGBT+ and Gender Diversity Awareness training available to staff.  When I was coming out I had to use the visitors’ toilets. It didn’t bother me at the time, but nowadays we’re more enlightened.”

Rachael can only recall a couple of instances of discrimination while at work. She said: “Wearing a face mask and shield because of COVID-19 means I often have to talk loudly. I only had one patient who was nasty to me – to be fair he was nasty to my other colleagues too – but he said I was a man which I found quite hurtful. My managers simply explain that I am a “professional qualified nurse like any other”,” she says.

Rachael adds that the key to supporting trans staff – and all other employees – is to see them as individuals with individual needs. “It is not just about me being a trans nurse, but about me being me,” she says.

This week she took part in an Royal College of Nursing Library Zoom call in which she was asked to talk about her experiences. She said: “We read a chapter from a book about the experience of a transgender female who came out in the 1970s and I told my own story. They said I didn’t blow my own trumpet enough!”

In the future Rachael says she would like to be more involved with training and raising awareness within the Trust.

She is currently working as a mentor/supervisor for an Open University student and would like to do more of this in the future.