On the 1st April 2018, my contract with the NHS was terminated and I was made redundant. I was unable to return to my original position of Lead Nurse and, with no suitable posts found, I was terminated (sounds very Arnie, doesn't it?).
There is a cosmic irony somewhere, I imagine, in regards to the date, but April Fools Day was the day when 18 years of my life and a career I had worked so hard for and felt so passionately about, came to an end.
And it was all because of bullying.
I have worked since I was old enough to have a paper round and have never been out of work. But I sit here, writing this, worrying about how I am going to support my family, pay my mortgage, what the future holds because a few individuals decided to conspire against me.
What for, I hear you ask?
Because I drew attention to bullying.
There's that irony again.
I could have been asked to be moved, asked to relinquish my position, told I wasn't good enough at it; all would have hurt, but not like this. But instead, a more insidious, complicated, destructive route was taken.
I shall never claim to be perfect. Have I made mistakes? Oof, I have made some doozies. Have I made mistakes at work? Yup. Have I ever been irritated, annoyed, frustrated at work? I have.
But to have your career end in such an ignominious way is akin to having part of your self forcibly removed. I can only describe it as losing part of who you were and realising you have to leave it behind, in the place you once were proud to work for and be a part of.
To describe how it feels, I can compare it only to bereavement. The loss you feel after having devoted so much of your life to a vocation, nearly half in my case, is almost overwhelming. The circumstances of the how, why and wherefore, will be shared in subsequent blog posts.
My former colleagues are still there, the ones that bullied me, working in the same department as though nothing has happened. I'll get to them later.
So, bullying... it's a powerful word that elicits the strongest of feelings in us. Say you don't like someone, we go 'Meh.' Say you hate someone, and we lean in closer for more details.
Say so-and-so is picking on me, and we go 'Really, what are they doing?' Say so-and-so is bullying you, and you're immediately advised to speak to H.R.
Words are powerful things. As an author, myself and my colleagues in the literary world, be it, bloggers, readers or writers, know it all too well. That is how, after all, we connect with you within the pages of the book you are reading. We know the words that will make you laugh, cry, chill you to the bone and make you feel safe and happy.
Yet in the big, wide world, words can be dangerous tools. They can be twisted, misconstrued and altered every so slightly so that the meaning becomes completely different to what it once was.
Bullying is a pernicious problem in the NHS. The Guardian found, from a survey they conducted in 2016, that out of 1,500 doctors, nurses and healthcare workers, 81% of them had experienced bullying in some form, 44% continue to suffer.
There is plenty more research outside of The Guardian's study regarding bullying in the NHS. It is a well known fact within the walls of the health service that, not only is it a huge problem, but that it doesn't get taken nearly seriously enough.
I have witnessed it in many forms and have intervened in a few; perhaps not enough, certainly in one circumstance. But when raised, I received a 'Yeah, but that's not the same everywhere,' and a 'Don't you think we know that!'. The former was from a former Director of Nursing, the latter from a Clinical Matron.
As a 42-year-old man, the very fact that you utter the words 'I was bullied' is something that attempts to strip away your masculinity. It shouldn't, yet you cannot help but feel that way.
I was bullied at school, but that was physical.
I was bullied by my father, but that was psychological.
Yet, to be bullied by an organisation, one of the largest in the world, who has all the power when you have none, is a strange beast indeed.
It was not one person, but a corporate approach. Nurses have a fantastic habit of grouping together and closing ranks when threatened. When you are part of a team, that sense of family and security is like nothing I could possibly describe. To feel that way in your place of work is truly special.
But when you fall outside of that circle and that same, supportive network is turned against you, it is like a scene from 300. You will find it difficult, nigh on impossible to break through that defensive formation to highlight the truth.
I have been silent about this for more than a year. I turned up for work 16th December 2016, wearing my Christmas t-shirt as arranged and jumped into my manager's office, yelling "Way-hey, look what I have on!"
I received a sad smile and was told to follow her. All the way, I was asking if this was a Christmas thing, how exciting it was and why wouldn't she tell me where we were going? Embarrassing now, right? I felt like a right pratt afterwards, but I honestly thought it was a Christmas surprise,
It was, just not one I would have ever expected.