Nurse Practitioner - Working at Broward Health for 29 years
Broward Health Community Health Services - Lauderdale Lakes Health Center
What figure in Black History would you most like to meet and why?
I would love to have met Mary Seacole, a woman of substance, and a champion in the helping profession. Ms. Seacole was hailed as the first nurse practitioner and the forgotten Nightingale. According to Jane Robinson in her book, Mary Seacole: The Charismatic Nurse Who Became a Heroine of the Crimea, at age 12, Ms. Seacole was working with her mother, a doctress, learning how to use herbs to aid in healing. Her additional knowledge came from a British military physician who was stationed on the island of Jamaica where she was born.
After reading reports about the tremendous number of deaths due to cholera and dysentery during the Crimean war, Ms. Seacole requested to join the campaign in Crimea. After numerous requests, she was refused by the British officials on four separate occasions, including once by Florence Nightingale who was then head of the nursing service in Crimea. Unfazed by the rejections, Mary Seacole spent her own funds to travel along the front lines in Turkey. She built a hotel in close proximity that provided homecooked meals on the first floor and operated as a hospital on the second floor, where she made medicine and provided free treatment to the sick and injured.
Ms. Seacole is the first named black woman to be so honored in the United Kingdom, and one of the Victorian era’s most luminous heroines. Forgotten when she died, her celebrity, born of her own strength of character, died with her, until a group of Jamaican nurses rediscovered her and the autobiography was reprinted in the mid-1980s. Now she is recognized not just as an icon of black history, but also an indomitable woman traveler, a nursing pioneer, a writer of huge wit, charisma and an inspirational – if accidental – “feminist.” Mary Seacole had the tenacity and the courage to coexist with racial discrimination in her nursing pursuits, while doing her best work.
Why is it important to seek out and value diverse perspectives in general and in healthcare?
One of the best ways to improve access to care for minorities and people of color is through increased diversity. The population in the US is growing larger and becoming increasing diverse; however, this trend in not so in healthcare. Although African Americans, Asians and Hispanics comprise over 30% of the population, there are only 9.9% African American, 8.3% Asians and 4.8% Hispanic registered nurses (according to minoritynurse.com). In addition to being underrepresented in healthcare, people of color continue to experience challenges associated with health disparities and decrease access to health services.
Diversity in all aspects of health care is essential. When the nursing workforce reflects the patients’ demographics, more nurturing care is usually the outcome. In our global society, it is important that we recognize different needs, respect differences, and celebrate our common humanity. More importantly, sharing power with others and treating others as equals adds to our cultural awareness and sensitivity. Diversity is creativity! The more wide-ranging the perspectives, the more scope for new ideas, and embracing diversity allows us to push our differences, which can make our similarities even more apparent.
What are you most proud of, professionally or personally?
I always knew healthcare was where I would be in the sciences. My journey to becoming a Ph.D.-prepared nurse practitioner allowed me the opportunity to be a voice at the table that affects change both nationally and international. This gives me a sense of pride and accomplishment. As a nurse practitioner, I am in a dynamic field of work. It is one where you have to be willing to adapt to change because not only do your patients change moment by moment, but the health field is not static. I have become a lifelong learner to stay on top of my game, keeping abreast of the current methodologies to provide optimal care.
I am an adjunct professor, and when students ask me about the profession, I share my story with them to inspire and motivate them to be the best at whatever trajectory they are on toward their career goal.
What advice would you give someone starting their career in your field?
You have to genuinely care about people. Some days, your motivation and inspiration will only come from your deep desire to make a difference in a patient’s life. Be aware of the subtle institutional inequities in the field, but you can overcome them by being the change you want to see.