A Lancashire nurse has been rewarded for her inclusion campaigning within the NHS, encouraging disabled people to follow their dream career.

Joanne Mohammed, originally from Lancaster, has been deaf for most of her life after contracting measles at the age of six.

The respiratory nurse and matron has worked in the health sector for 24 years but only recently made strides towards a project which helps to integrate disabled workers in the NHS.

Having received a silver Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) award for her efforts; the 50-year-old is keen to share her thoughts on making the health industry more inclusive.

"When I first became a nurse my mum's friends told her that I should give it up; I wan't going to make it because I was deaf," Joanne told LancsLive.

"Getting this award has been the best part of my career, my mum wishes she could go back and show her friends what I've achieved.

"Nursing is a good job, you never know what you're going to come up with.

"The people you work with are amazing, and you learn something new about someone every single day.

"That's the amazing thing about nursing; making that difference, I want people with all disabilities to realise that it is an option for them."

When Joanne was six years old she came down with the infectious disease measles which can cause a high fever, rashes and severe ear infections.

For Joanne this later led to her losing her hearing.

"To be honest I can't really remember it, it was just something I got on with," she added.

"It was the 1970s, I don't think there was an emphasis on supporting deaf children in school; I didn't think anything of it.

"It was never really an issue, it was only when I came into the world of work that it became an issue, that's when I saw it more as a disability."

Joanne began training to become a nurse in 1994 before fully qualifying in 1998.

She says there wasn't much provision or assistance for disabilities at the time. Small, everyday, incidents made her feel marginalised at work.

The matron said: "It's the little things like asking someone to repeat themselves and them replying: 'actually it's ok'.

"It's not feeling able to speak up in meetings and ask people to repeat things. I used to have to take my hearing aids out to do the blood pressure machines too.

"Answering the phone was hard as well. People were supportive I just think there was a lack of awareness."

In 2019, while attending an inclusion meeting at the National Nursing Initiative, Joanne had, what she terms as, a "light bulb moment."

"That was a real turning point for me," said the 50-year-old.

"I had spent 17 years trying to accommodate and fit into the hearing world but then I realised it would be better to find ways for me to be accommodated instead.

"I changed my mindset; what can my work place do to help me work better?"

Since then Joanne has led an inclusion project across East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, visiting schools across the country to share her experiences and inspire a future generation of nurses.

She has also established a national network of hearing impaired and deaf nurses, and has contributed to the design of an NHS England and Improvement national diversity conference.

Joanne said: "In the last few years technology has caught up with work needs for me.

"I have a Bluetooth hearing aid for answering the phones but I've also had a change in attitude to managing people and working with them.

"It's about person centred learning, finding ways to get the most out of each person, nobody is the same, no deaf person is the same.

"We all need different things to get the best out of us."

Joanne was recently awarded the silver CNO award which recognises health professionals who demonstrates excellence in, amongst other things, tackling diversity and health inequalities.

The Lancaster nurse says more needs to be done to ensure that disabled workers do not feel unable to enter the career of their choice.

"I think we need more visible disabled role models in work and the media," said Joanne.

"It needs to become the norm rather than the expectation that disabled people are accommodated in the work place and for them not to be seen as a hindrance.

"If we can do that then people will see that they can do these jobs too."

Bev Matthews, Clinical Transformation Lead and Virtual Collaboration Cell Lead at NHS Horizons, nominated Joanne for the award.

She said: "I wanted to nominate Joanne for a CNO award as she has been an inspiration to work with. Joanne has transformed the perceptions of those who are deaf or hard of hearing to believe that they can consider a career in health and care.

"She is a nurse who shows natural leadership, supporting those who are marginalised by creating opportunities and driving behaviours to make the changes necessary to tackle exclusion.

" I am so pleased that she has received this award as it couldn't go to a more deserving person."

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