For Black History Month 2021, we want to give black people in healthcare a platform to share individual stories on their background, racial disparities in healthcare, and most importantly, why they are ‘Proud to Be’. Keep reading to see our very own Joyce Calvin’s inspiring story in her own words all about her career in nursing, achievements and her role model Mary Seacole.
“Hello, my name is Joyce Calvin and I work as a Dietetic Assistant for the Huntercombe Group, Stafford. I have worked for the Huntercombe Group since October 2004 in many different roles. I am proud to be a mixed-race woman, my father was Jamaican/German, and my mother was English/Irish. My father was part of the Windrush generation that came from Jamaica to England, and if he was here today he would willingly tell everyone the story that he helped to re-build Great Britain. My mother had a very strong personality and was born in the town where I grew up. Both of my parents always taught me to believe in myself. I was raised in a small mining town in Staffordshire, in which a black person was quite rare. As a child, I faced what I now know as racism, but my father always told me if I was knocked down to get back up, and to keep getting up until I stayed up.
My parents fought for me to have a good education and I was the first within my mothers and fathers’ family to get a degree. I enjoy being with others and looking after people, so I went to nursing school to pursue a career as a nurse, however I then left to start my own family and raise my children. As they grew up, I started a new journey into youth work, where I was the only black person to become a qualified youth worker within my team. Throughout my life I have studied for many qualifications and inspired my own children and others to achieve and reach for what they want in life just like my parents did for me. As for myself, I love to garden and grow a range of flowers, fruits, and vegetables. I also enjoy doing lots of things including walking, quizzing, knitting, decorating and socialising with my family and friends.
As I grew up I began to notice that not a lot of people looked like me. I wanted to look for someone who I could aspire to, which is when I read about Mary Seacole. She was a mixed-race nurse and when in England she was made fun of because of ‘her complexion’ and faced racism and prejudice. She was determined to help others and let nothing stand in her way, even today she is a great role model as she wanted to help those who were sick; she achieved it and became one of history’s greatest figures. In 2016 a statue of Mary Seacole was unveiled in the grounds of St Thomas Hospital, the United Kingdom’s first memorial statue in honour of a named black woman. When I need inspiration, I think what would Mary do? I know she would always find a way to overcome.
So, what is it like being a black person in healthcare? I am proud to be a healthcare worker and make a difference to the lives of those I work with and hopefully I can encourage others in the future to join the field of healthcare. I am no stranger to adversity in my career, but with the right team and support it has always been handled correctly. I am a tolerant person but I have learnt to speak up and say when I think things aren’t right. I have met and listened to the life stories of many including staff, families and patients, each one adding to my experience of life. A diverse team helps you to become more respectful of others beliefs and to get a greater understanding of different cultures. Within healthcare I have met a diverse group of people and learnt about different cultures. This has helped me to grow as a person and for me to then to encourage others to believe in themselves. I value our diverse team as it generates innovation, we are listened to, and differences are admired and celebrated and I’m proud to be able to support the multiculturalism and diversity that helps shape our team and the care we provide.
The young people and families I work with teach me to be aware of what is going on and how I can help them in their journey to recovery. Every time a young person leaves our care, we all unite and make an arch with our arms and hands whilst the young person runs through, we clap until everyone down the line is clapping and the young person has walked out of the door into their new life. It’s looking down that line that I see the diversity of the ward, where we have all come together to celebrate the end of their journey with us and a start of something new for them. I am proud to be part of that and to represent myself as a positive, approachable black person in healthcare.
A highlight of my career was on the 25th of August 2021, where Wiz Magunda, the Hospital Manager, presented me with a Colleague Choice Award, highly commended for my teamwork. I couldn’t wait to post all about it on my family’s group chat, my children and grandchildren were so proud of me for winning an award. My colleagues congratulated me, and I felt the award spoke for our whole team as it represented fairness, accessibility to all and recognition.
I think black people will always face challenges, and when I look back on my career I have faced racism and witnessed my fair share also. It has unfortunately always been part of my life, but has shaped me to be stronger, and reach for goals that others have believed I can’t achieve. I am thankful to be part of Black History Month and celebrate the contributions of everyone in the past and future. I have learnt so much from Black History Month and continue to learn every year. Inequality is still there, but we need to keep up the good work and continue to educate, inspire, challenge and just like Mary Seacole, be the role models of the future.”