Why Frontline Workers Keep Working when they retire- Interview with Dr Joan Myers OBE

Why Frontline workers could never retire?

Success means different things for different people. Defining success after the Covid-19 pandemic tells a very different story; a story about people who dare to re-define the present reality, how they are dealing with the crisis, the bouncing back period and the recovery, how they conduct themselves through immediate survival and long-term resilience.

Success is no longer about being at the rains of your industry or being financially rich, but it comes with a different focus : empathy, compassion and community. We followed Philanthropists from around the world who found the right approach and who’s constant focus is to help total strangers overcome challenges during these tragic times in our lives.

Businesses large and small as well our way of life came to a sudden stand still. Leaders, executives have come together looking for solutions that go beyond their professional role as everything has changed. In doing so, it became clear that a recipe for survival is not possible outside a deep transformation of the entire society.

At the same time, we realized that there is a world of philanthropy on its own and it also means different things for different people.

Philanthropic Minds is a section specifically designed to deepen your understanding of giving and at the same time to connect you to like-minded individuals, one story at a time. Today we reached out to Dr Joan Myers OBE from London, UK.

Philanthropic Minds: Dr Joan Myers OBE

” As a young girl at school I was always told I was not good enough and would never amount to much. I was able to prove my teachers wrong. You can do it if you want to, its up to you not anyone else. However, it helps if you have someone to encourage you along the way and be your cheerleader. But firstly you must have inner belief and self-esteem, self-worth and self-confidence.”

Dr Joan Myers OBE

Who was Joan as a little girl? What do you remember about your family home?

I grew up with in London with my five siblings and my Jamaican mother, I had a happy childhood and knew at age of 3 years old when my mother gave me a nurse’s uniform as a Christmas present that I wanted to be a nurse. I actually carried a small tin of plasters to school every day to put on my friends. I am proud to say I have been a nurse for over 35 years and retired recently from my last nursing role as an Associate Director for Health Services and Chief Nurse in August 2019.

What brings you joy in life?

I love encouraging, edifying and empowering people to excel and do well in their chosen career, that is why I enjoy doing motivational presentations and find it rewarding mentoring and coaching. Anywhere I am able to inspire others with my knowledge and experience brings me joy.  This is because as a young girl at school I was always told I was not good enough and would never amount to much. I was able to prove my teachers wrong. You can do it if you want to, it’s up to you not anyone else. However, it helps if you have someone to encourage you along the way and be your cheer leader. But firstly, you must have inner belief and self-esteem, self-worth and self-confidence.

You had to overcome numerous challenges and we both know that life never gets easier; what keeps you strong throughout to the finishing line?

I am optimistic and have a positive outlook on most things. I see obstacles as opportunities to explore things differently to come up with new ways of doing things. I like to prove things can be done especially if challenged, so one of my mottoes is to be persistent, insistent and consistent and you will win through in the end.

 You are a legend when it comes to helping others. What drives you and keeps you motivated when times are tough?  

I qualified as an adult trained nurse then specialised in paediatrics and worked in the hospital setting for over 5 years before moving to the community to set up and develop Community Children’s Nursing services in 5 boroughs across London. I believe sick children can be safely managed at home with the right resources and qualified nurses to support them.  Or if they need to be in hospital their length of stay can be shortened so they can be cared for in a home environment with nursing support where needed.  I became the first and only Nurse Consultant for Community Children Nursing in 2003. 

I set up the first nurse led eczema clinic in one area so parents or General Practitioners could refer children to me directly, this reduced the need for them to be seen by a Dermatologist in hospital. 

I was truly surprised and humbled to receive in the Queen’s birthday honours list in 2013 the Officer of the British Empire (OBE) for services to children and nursing. This was for both my work in the community across London but also for my charity work in Kenya. 

You are contributing and leading numerous projects and charitable organisations. What is your best project so far?

My best project so far is the Rehoboth Children’s Home Charity in Kenya which started in 2002 initially to help one child and her family but has extended to 25 children and young people and their family. I feel really proud that these children are being fed every day and have an education which they may not have had the opportunity to have without the generous support of sponsors.

The first girl called Sharon, I sponsored when she was 3 years old in 2002 is now 21 years old. A few years ago she told me I was her role model and she wanted to be a nurse like me. She is now half way through her nurse training in Kenya and her younger sister will be starting her training soon. Her older brother always wanted to be a lawyer. They grew up in the slums in poverty, but today he has his diploma in law and is completing his law degree. That family administers the work of the charity in Kenya today. 

Melda the mother of Sharon was a phenomenal woman although she had 9 children of her own and lived in the slums in poverty, she was always looking out for others and how she could help them. Melda identified most of the children from the village she felt needed support and between her and her children helped me to run the charity from Kenya. 

Sadly Melda passed away last year but not before realising our dream of purchasing land. When the children’s home is built on the land it will be named after Melda as a lasting legacy of the great work she did in her local community to support vulnerable children and their families. 

What are your wildest dreams? What would you do if you had a magic wand?

My vision and dream are to build a school, health centre, church and children home in Nakuru, Kenya where I have purchased land with the support of my church. Its not a wild dream it’s my vision for the future, I don’t need a magic wand just faith in God who can do all things. My favourite scripture verse is I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

I believe it’s important to leave a legacy and do all we can when we can to help others who need it. We are only here on earth for a season but for a reason so we need to find our purpose, have a plan and fulfill our dreams. My passion is to touch hearts for Christ by loving people in action, demonstrating God’s love.am

I am most proud of the medical mission and evangelism event we held on the land in Nakuru last September where we were able to provide medical treatment 3 days for over 400 people who would not have opportunity to see or doctor or would not have been able to afford the medication prescribed. I led a team of six and was supported by the ministry of health in the local area which is providing doctors and nurses to help. We also gave out food and clothes and prayed for people and demonstrated the love of God in action.  

Powerful women help me to stand by my belief to go where you are celebrated do not stay where you are tolerated as anytime you are denigrated you would never be appreciated.

Dr Joan Myers OBE

Who are the three top Caribbean Women coming to mind?

The top of my list of Caribbean Women who I look up to is my mother, the matriarch. She was very strict with me as I was the eldest girl, so I had to set the example for the others. My mother was my first mentor and coach and her words of wisdom and prayers have helped me to be the person I am today. I believe my confidence and resilience come from my mother’s faith and belief in my ability to do better. The motto I live by is “Good, better, best. Never let it rest. ‘Til your good is better and your better is best.”

Lynette Phillips OBE, an independent management consultant who became my coach in 2008 and has supported me in my career progression especially when dealing with challenges in the work place. 

Dr Neslyn Watson-Druee CBE FCGI FRCN, has been my executive coach who challenged and stretched me to excel in my career but especially so in my last role as Associate Director & Chief Nurse before I retired from nursing in August 2019.  These powerful women help me to stand by my belief to go where you are celebrated, do not stay where you are tolerated as anytime you are denigrated you would never be appreciated.

These phenomenal women were the main people who coached, mentored, counselled and prayed for me throughout my career.

Would you do what you do without being paid for it?

One of the areas I like to support nurses and others in is to realise they are all very important – one of a kind, born to make a difference.  In the NHS the majority of Black nurses are often overlooked for promotion and very few get promoted to senior management or director of nursing or chief nurse position.

I have been really blessed to be able to progress but I received support from my mentors and coaches as it was challenging. So my passion is to help nurses to be promoted and progress in their careers if this is what they want to do. I offer interview preparation and support in developing their confidence. Therefore my desire is to see more black nurses represented at all levels in decision making spaces where they can influence positive change for other black nurses.

Who is caring for the carer?

What is exciting and happening as we speak, either in your organisation, career or personal life? Can we help you break the news?

When COVID-19 started I found out a lot of frontline nurses especially those who work in the community or in care homes did not have adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) this includes masks and gloves and gowns. I join up with Ascension Trust a Christian initiative with a group of nurses, doctors, social workers and counsellors and we formed Five2Medics.

The Ascension Trust and its CEO, Rev Les Isaac OBE have partnered with Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI), Christ Hospital Ministry (CHM), and Marva Bell, MBACP (Counsellors Inc) to raise funds to purchase PPE equipment for frontline workers.

Our aim is to provide PPE and psychological support for frontline workers who need it. We have been running webinars on topics such as “who is caring for the carer?” and have provided Mental health and welling support, education and information. I enjoy working with ambitious professionals who are generous with their time, knowledge and skills and want to use it to benefit others. 

About Dr Joan Myers OBE

  • Joan has over 35 years’ experience as a nurse consultant and educator in community children’s nursing settings across London. She has worked as an advisor to the Chief Nursing Officer for England in the NHS for over 10 years.
  • Joan recently retired from her post as Associate Director for Health Services and Chief Nurse in Kingston and Richmond last year. 
  • Joan is a 2018 Florence Nightingale Foundation Leadership Scholar and became a Trustee and Director with the Florence Nightingale Foundation in 2019.
  • She is on Royal College of Nursing Council representing over 62,000 nurses in London.
  • Joan is an inspirational speaker and is passionate about motivating and challenging people to excel and do well in their careers. Her Independent consultancy company offers mentorship and career support.
  • Joan received an OBE for services to children and nursing in the Queens’ Birthday honors’ list in 2013, she is a Queen’s nurse & has a honorary doctorate from Middlesex University. 
  • Joan is a pastor at Rehoboth International Christian Centre in Croydon and is also a member of Five2Medics affiliated with Ascension Trust. 
  • Joan has a children’s charity providing education and support for over 25 vulnerable children & their families in Nakuru, Kenya
  • Dr Joan Myers OBE retired and launched her own Consultancy firm in August 2020.

Please contact Dr Joan Myers OBE directly for mentoring and coaching, career advice and motivational keynote presentation.

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