Nursing Standard podcast: Celebrating the legacy of Mary Seacole

The latest episode of the Nursing Standard Podcast looks at the life and legacy of Crimean war nurse Mary Seacole

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The Jamaican-born nurse set up the British Hotel near Balaclava (now a town in the Ukraine) to provide soldiers with food and care during the Crimean war of 1853-1856.

Also in this episode

In 2016, Mrs Seacole became the first named black woman in the UK to have a statue built in her honour.

The bronze statue, which stands in the grounds of St Thomas’ Hospital in London, has now been nominated for the Marsh Awards 2017, a competition which recognises ‘originality, aesthetic quality and sensitivity to its site’ in public sculpture.

It is the result of a 12-year, £500,000 fundraising campaign by the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal.

Mary Seacole's legacy

Those behind the appeal have now created the Mary Seacole Trust to promote her legacy and reporter Matthew Mckew is this week joined by trust chair Trevor Sterling on the podcast.

Mr Sterling explains who Mrs Seacole was, why he got involved in the statue appeal and the future for the trust.

Also in this episode

  • Nursing Management editor Nick Lipley discusses an article by David Willett, which explores how apprenticeship degree routes could close the leadership gap and help registered nurses to progress their careers

He says: 'She had many, many qualities. She was an entrepreneur, she was someone who was caring, compassionate, a nurse and a traveller.

'She acquired a lot of information and that was really about how to live life with one particular aim, to support and care for other people. She only ever asked one question of herself, which was not why is this not possible, but how can I?'

Poetry and discussion

The Nursing Standard Podcast also features the poem called You Called and We Came.

Written and read by Laura Serrant, chair of the chief nursing officer for England's black and minority ethnic strategic advisory group, the poem recounts the journey of nurses from the Caribbean who responded to a call to work in the newly-created NHS.

Professor Serrant was last month named the UK's eighth most influential person of African and African-Caribbean heritage in the 2018 Powerlist.

You Called and We Came

You called… and we came
You called… and we came.
In ships bigger than anything we had seen,
dwarfing our islands and covering them
in the shadows of smoke and noise.
Crowded, excited voices filled the air,
traveling to the 'motherland' –
over weeks, over oceans that threatened to engulf us.
Driven by a wish, a call to save, to rebuild
and support efforts to establish 'health for all'
in the aftermath of war.

You called… and we came.
Women and men of position in our homelands;
nurses with a pride in the excellence of our care.
With experience of management, organisation
and a sense of duty.
We appeared.
Smiling and eager to work on the wards, communities and clinics
of this England.

You called….and we came.
Our big hearts, skilful hands and quick minds
encased in our skins – of a darker hue.
Which had shimmered and glowed
in our sunnier climes.
But now signified our difference –
our un-belonging.
Matrons became assistants.
Nurses became like chambermaids.
All the while striving to fulfil our promise –
to succour, to serve, to care.

You called… and we came.
The blue of the sister's uniform – 
seemed as far away from us as the moon.
Unreachable by our dark hands in this cold land.
But we were made of sterner stuff.
The hot sun, which once beat down on our ancestors,
when they too left their lands,
Shone within us.
Forging our hearts and minds
with the resistance of Ebony.

You called… and we came.
Rising like the Phoenix,
from the heat of rejection.
We cared, we worked and we organised.
Until the quickness of our brains
and the excellence of our care
made it hard for you to contain us.
And slowly, so slowly,
the blue uniforms had dark and lighter bodies beneath them.
The professional care in our touch
was valued despite the strangeness of our speech
and the kinks in our hair.

You called….and we came.
A new millennium – new hopes spread across this land.
New populations, engaging and reflecting
the varied, diverse and vibrant nature of these shores.
Challenging and reflecting on leadership for health.
Moves to melt the 'snow' at the peaks of our profession.
Recognising the richness of our kaleidoscope nation.
Where compassion, courage and diversity are reflected
in our presence and our contribution:
not only the hopes and dreams of our ancestors.
Human values needed to truly lead change… and add value.

Remember… you called.
Remember… you called
YOU. Called.
Remember, it was us, who came.

© Laura Serrant


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