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Many Caribbean women who had come to Britain did not return home afterwards, as they had intended to do. They all held British passports, a requisite until 1962, when they were granted leave to remain here indefinitely. But why did they stay? There were a variety of reasons.
Some felt unable to return to their islands. The Enrolled Nurse (SEN) qualification was not recognized in the Caribbean, and they would not qualify for the senior posts. Most remained in Britain, however, because, at some point in their career, they became wives and mothers and found themselves settled with a family in England.
Experiences were varied. Caribbean nurses were well respected by the patients they cared for but there were also examples of abuse and accusations. Overall they gained a great deal of knowledge and satisfaction from looking after sick people, often in specialities which the indigenous population refused to occupy. Caribbean nurses made a choice to come to Britain, and made a choice to remain here, but all agree that: 'We contributed to the NHS. We have built the NHS because we were committed to our work and our nursing careers.'
Anonymous quotations are taken from interviews conducted by Linda Ali with Caribbean nurses for her thesis, West Indian Nurses and the National Health Service in Britain 1950 - 1968 (Unpublished thesis, University of York, 20001)
Baxter, C The Black Nurse: Endangered Species (Cambridge 1988)
Hinds D Journey to an Illusion (London 1966)
Robinson K The Nursing Workforce: Aspects of Inequality in Policy Issues in Nirsing (Buckinghamshire, 1992)
Creators: Linda Ali
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