Nursing outside of the box: the work of British Sikh Nurses

By Rohit Sagoo (@RohitSagoo) He is Chair of @NursesSikh

Rohit Sagoo, senior lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University and founder of British Sikh Nurses

The stereotypical view of nurses is a uniformed nurse working in a hospital.  Though existing community nurses are also part of the role, grassroots outreach work with organic engagement with community organisations is an innovation beyond the hospital walls.  In 2016, British Sikh Nurses (BSN) was set up by its founder and director – Rohit Sagoo.  The organisation aimed to bridge the gap between the NHS and the hard-to-reach South Asian communities in promoting healthy lifestyles and well-being.

The phenomenon of grassroots innovative nursing is a concept that involves nurses paying attention to the specific needs of individuals or sectors of the community and taking matters into their own hands.  Defining grassroots nursing is by affecting change from the bottom up and can be seen as the increasing involvement of nurses in community-led interventions and health programmes.  Grassroots nursing also involves proactive practice innovation inside and outside healthcare institutions that address local health inequalities.

One of the critical factors of community groups like BSN is facilitating the need to influence positive health behaviours in South Asian communities in the UK.  Gathering the right resources and disseminating the information to the community is essential.  The information gathered should appropriately address any health concerns people in the community fear.  One example is the myth-busting discussions our health professionals and faith leaders carried out during the Covid-19 pandemic.  According to the Office of National Statistics (2020), religious groups, including those from the Sikh community, were at greater risk of death from Covid -19 compared to the Christian community.  Therefore, a trusted organisation like BSN can communicate with the Sikh community, given the insight, meaningful connectedness, and community relationships that have been established.

Establishing an organisation like BSN takes innovation, courage, and a sense of nursing duty to a particular goal or aspiration.  In our case, it stemmed from a sense of selfless service which is one of the critical tenets of the Sikh faith.  Like most grassroots nursing interventions, it underpins the value of volunteering and dedicating spare time to serve patients or a community.  Most grassroots nursing is an extension of formal work.  The key is to work in partnership with community organisations, charities, faith groups, and faith leaders to assist in understanding the health and community challenges and enable the grassroots nursing work to navigate successfully to the community.  One example is the health screening work that BSN has carried out with the congregation (Sangat) at Gurdwaras across England.

Much of the success of BSN has been attributed to its social media and direct engagement with the community.  Most importantly, to recognise the health and well-being needs of the South Asian community.  Social media engagement directly enables increased support from key community leaders and organisations and informs the community of public health initiatives.  Direct engagement from BSN in the South Asian community also overcomes the barriers such as culture, language, beliefs, and health education.  Our goal is to provide health awareness, screening, and education contributing to factors affecting the South Asian community.  More so to provide a culturally sensitive approach to draw on the challenges of health inequalities in the South Asian community.  One example is empowering South Asian to have a conversation about organ donation with their loved ones.  This approach requires myth-busting negative attitudes, promoting positive attitudes toward organ donation, and encouraging family engagement and involvement in decisions around the end of life.

In conclusion, the fundamental principle of British Sikh Nurses is a crucial promotional driver for addressing health inequalities in the South Asian community from a grassroots level.  In addition, promoting community involvement in decisions about their health.  British Sikh nurses play a unique role in interpersonal communication in local health, developing networks for bespoke health interventions expressly for the South Asian community.


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