Celebrating our staff in MPFT - Shirley Archibald shares her story.

“This is me”

Hello, my name is Shirley Archibald.

People know me as Shirl or Shirley, I don’t’ mind which but if you are calling me Shirl you probably have known me for some time. I was born and raised in Leeds, West Yorkshire and I knew from a very early age that I wanted to be a nurse. I started my nurse training in 1978, and have been working in the NHS for the last 44 years (45 years if you count my pre-nursing experience).  I enjoy gardening and socialising with family and friends.

My parents originate from St. Kitts in the West Indies and came to the UK in the late fifties to settle here. St. Kitts is a beautiful island and I have visited there many, many times as I have family there, but like many of the Caribbean islands it is deep rooted in one of the longest written histories of the Caribbean. It is twinned with the island of Nevis, both islands being among Spain's and England's first colonies in the archipelago.  The first Europeans to see and name the islands were the Spanish under Christopher Columbus, who sighted the islands on 11 and 13 November 1493 during his second voyage. Despite learning about Christopher Columbus during my history lessons at school (which was a very long time ago), I was unaware of this fact until I researched the history for myself.

Name and role within Trust:   I am a named nurse for Safeguarding within the safeguarding team for MPFT.  I work within the Children and Families Care Group. The safeguarding team is not a diverse team in terms of ethnicity and I am the only black professional working in the team so I do stick out like a sore thumb but this is not an unusual experience for me.

In my previous roles and current post working in the NHS, there were/are no BAME professionals working alongside me and no BAME in senior positions within the organisations, so I have always felt like a bit of a token. I have experienced and had to challenge what I deem to be at times racist comments and attitudes and ignorance that were apparent to me but at the same time, I have worked with some very dedicated individuals who have given their time unstintingly within the NHS.

I am deeply inspired by the work of Mary Seacole who was also a nurse in the Crimean war but have only really in the last 20 years learnt about her and what she achieved in the face of adversity. She had an unmistakable belief in the power of nursing and truly made a difference, my favourite quote of hers being: “I attribute my success to this – I never gave up or took any excuse”.

 My all-time favourite quote though is from Frederick Douglass-“I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false and to incur my own abhorrence.” He was an escaped slave who became a prominent activist, author and public speaker. He was instrumental in the abolitionist movement, which sought to end the practice of slavery, before and during the Civil War. Even after the conflict he continued to push for equality and human rights until his death in 1895. His name is often used within black history month and to me, he is an important person whose contribution to black history should never be forgotten.