• Ignite

Nurses Who Inspire: Christopher Dlamini, PhD(c), MEd, BSN, RNLD, PgCertHE, PgCertLTHE

RESOLVE TO PROMOTE TOGETHERNESS

Nothing improves one's practice better than knowing why we do what we do as nurses.

We interviewed Christopher Dlamini, a Senior Lecturer in Learning Disability Nursing at Teesside University, Middlesbrough, UK, who supports pre-registration student nurses. Chris also teaches nursing modules in the university and holds a passion for cultural issues, which he believes need to be acknowledged when working with patients from different cultural backgrounds. He highlights the importance of recognizing that nurses, themselves, come from different cultural and ethnic groups, resulting in nursing, itself, presenting as a strong multicultural practice. Chris is currently pursuing his PhD. His research focuses on the impact of indigenous belief systems and explanatory models on the practice of African student nurses supporting populations with learning disabilities and mental illness in the United Kingdom.


Ignite:

Where are you from and what drives your passion to be in nursing?


Chris:

I was born in Southern Africa, a continent that embraces community living and working, but I now live in England. My upbringing has taught me that being from a different ethnic group, l have some expectations determined by my own culture; therefore, it is important that when l teach students, they become aware of my beliefs about my health and well-being. Students need to understand that healthcare is a melting pot of cultural interactions from the start to the end of any patient-practitioner interaction.


Ignite:

Can you guide us through the process you traversed to get to where you are today in your career?


Chris:

I started life as a school teacher and thoroughly enjoyed shaping young minds. This was a job that taught me to appreciate the complex job teachers have day-in and day-out. Children have vivid imaginations and are so creative that when you live in their world every day, you start to relive your own childhood again and again. I would have done this job forever, but l quickly learned that l would never progress any further. After settling in England, l fell in love with children with learning disabilities when l worked with them during school holidays. The following year, I resigned as a teacher and went to train as a nurse for three years. I worked as a community learning disability nurse/primary mental health worker. I never lost my passion for teaching, so l continued to gain a teaching qualification and teaching experience. I returned to education as a senior lecturer, and here l am!


Ignite:

How do you encourage innovative ideas?


Chris:

In nursing, we need to be innovative. Students come to me with ideas daily and my job is to grow them. Having learned from my job as a school teacher, you never say "no" to a student’s idea, if it is beyond me, l always signpost them elsewhere, but if l relate to it, I will support them to develop the idea. Sometimes l have to suggest ideas, sometimes they just pop up. That is how we evolve in nursing.


Ignite:

Do you have a mentor?


Chris:

I had a mentor who looked after me when l first joined as a lecturer. She is such an inspiration to so many students and nurses alike. I was lucky in that she had taught me as a student nurse, so it was not so hard to continue my learning and admiration of her. Even after the allocated time elapsed, I have continued to learn from her. Now, l am considered independent enough to spread my wings. l do not have one, however, l consider myself a mentor and like to inspire future nurses in whatever it is they wish to pursue.


Ignite:

Can you recommend a book or resource for building a particular strength or skill-set that you find valuable?


Chris:

I have a copy called Essential Skills Clusters for Nurses: Theory for Practice by Childs, Coles, and Marjoram. I have had it for ten years now. It keeps me thinking about the basic skills of nursing.


Ignite:

What do you do to challenge your practice?


Chris:

I have always been a curious person since being a young boy and have always been fascinated by the pursuit of knowledge, so l am always learning something new. I am currently in the middle of my PhD, and this is keeping me curiously seeking answers to my practice. Nothing improves one's practice better than knowing why we do what we do as nurses.


Ignite:

How do you navigate feeling nervous speaking to groups?


Chris:

I was in a play at preschool as The Angel Gabriel. I was an altar boy in my church and in the church choir. Basically, l was always in front of people. I can be nervous for fifteen seconds just before l speak in front of a group, but after that, l recalibrate and enter the zone, and there is no stopping me.


Ignite:

If a nursing student approached you and asked for your advice, and you had just a few moments to engage with them, what would be your best tip?


Chris:

You have the power to make a difference in a patient’s life, but the patient has the power over their life. Respect the patient and where they are coming from when you work with them. The only way you can achieve any positive outcomes for your patient is when you treat them as an equal partner. If you live by this mantra, patients will love you.


Ignite:

Is there anything else you would like to share?


Chris:

I would like to urge young people to think about learning disability nursing [see video embedded below]. I know that this title is known by different names across the globe, such as intellectual disability, mental handicap, etcetera, but the amazing job we do as learning disability nurses makes a difference in people’s lives. When you meet one person with a learning disability, you have met one person with a learning disability.

Caring for the Nation, Mary Seacole Trust



Mary Seacole Trust. (2021). Chris Dlamini interview: Caring for the nation. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/_FvYnpZG3co.



Connect with Christopher

Chris can be reached via Twitter @Chris_Dlamini. He can also be found as Chris Dlamini on LinkedIn and via his YouTube channel.