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Inspiring senior black nurse receives honour after 40-year career in London

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A leading black nurse who started her career more than 40 years ago has been awarded a Doctorate in Health from her former higher education institution.

Mary Clarke received an honorary degree from GSM London more than a decade after completing an Executive MBA course at its Greenwich campus.

“I was fortunate to have managers that recognised my potential”

Mary Clarke

At the awards event on 19 April at the Barbican Centre, GSM London Provost Debi Hayes highlighted Ms Clarke’s impressive career, which started in 1976 when she trained as a state enrolled nurse.

She then progressed through the ranks, becoming a staff nurse, senior night sister, senior district nurse sister and primary care manager.

In 2001, she became director of nursing and quality for the former City and Hackney Teaching Primary Care Trust and, while there, decided to boost her academic qualifications.

“I had my nursing qualifications but not a degree and so decided to do a master’s in health service management,” she said.

She is currently a management consultant and director of workforce for the City and Hackney GP Confederation, where she takes a lead in primary care nursing, risk management, governance, education commissioning and workforce development initiatives.

GSM London

Inspiring senior black nurse receives honour after 40-year career

Mary Clarke

In 2005, Ms Clarke was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list for services to nursing and was listed by Health Service Journal in its 50 BME Inspirational Leaders Pioneers List in 2013.

Her commitment to the health sector goes back to when she was a child and “had set my sights on becoming a nurse”. “I love the NHS, working with the people there and the patients,” she said.

Ms Clarke said being West Indian and a woman had presented challenges through her career but believed her resilience and having very supportive managers had helped her to continue to succeed.

“It has been hard, but when opportunities came around, I was fortunate to have managers that recognised my potential,” she said.

“I took these opportunities – it was hard work – but that taught me to be resilient and this gave me the confidence to realise that in some situations some people you work with are no better than you and there is no reason why you cannot do what they are doing,” she noted.

Black and minority ethnic nursing and midwifery staff remain “seriously under-represented” at a senior level within the NHS, although some progress has been made recently, according to a recent report on the treatment of BME employees within England’s health service.

Ms Clarke advised others to work to their true potential, ensure every career move helped to increase their skills base and to not be afraid to ask if they do not know something.

On receiving the award, Ms Clarke added: “It was a real honour and delight to have this recognition.”

GSM London – formerly the Greenwich School of Management – has campuses in Greenwich and Greenford and a study centre at London Bridge. About 90% of its students are black and minority ethnic, and 80% are mature.

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