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Michael's Girls' School, the first secondary school for black girls in Barbados, graduating in with a grade one senior school certificate. Against the wishes of her relatives, in Barrow enrolled as a student nurse at the Barbados General Hospital, and in midwifery training in Trinidad and Tobago five years later. Following social unrest in many of the islands in the s, the British government allocated greater resources to public health and provided greater employment opportunities for British Caribbean women, particularly in the field of nursing.

This policy decision facilitated both Barrow's studies and her career. Barrow's sense of social justice, which was already evident during her years as a student nurse, was developed in Trinidad and Tobago , where among other activities she became a member of the Young Women's Christian Association YWCA. A fellowship at the University of Toronto in led to other opportunities. An impressive year's work culminated in her being class valedictorian and led to another year's scholarship to study nursing education.

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This included field work in Jamaica, which led to an appointment there as assistant instructor with the School of Public Health. A fellowship at the Royal College of Nursing at Edinburgh led to a postgraduate course at the Royal College of Nursing at London for training as a ward sister. After two years she left to become the first principal nursing officer of Jamaica, the first time in Commonwealth history that the post had been created.

She held this position for six years. Visiting each territory enabled her to increase her already large number of contacts throughout the region. In Barrow became the first woman and first black director of the Christian Medical Council and the first black president of the World YWCA; she was also awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree by the University of the West Indies.

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Breaking the Glass Ceiling

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Deborah Parnis and more Qualitative Health Research. And I'd sometimes say well you know, I think you really need to rethink about that because you know we are trained in the very same way those nurses are trained and actually we probably can even be better because we understand a lot of the cultural, the language and what you're going through. And so oftentimes I think over time you just didn't need to say it anymore.

1. Introduction

Yet for these nurses, establishing credibility also meant proving not only their competence, but also their loyalty to Aboriginal people and practices. As this quote explains:. So when I first came either, well who does she think she is and yeah as if I was practicing as a mainstream nurse.

Like you're supposed to be a native nurse why are you doing it that way.


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These nurses had to prove that they would not abandon their communities, that they would remain loyal to their communities, and that they would remain true to Aboriginal culture and beliefs despite their mainstream schooling. One of the ways in which participants responded to racism and discrimination was by educatingothers. Nurses spoke openly about personal experiences and observations of discrimination in order to educate many people about the fact that racism still occurs in hospitals and the need educate coworkers demonstrating racist behaviour by challenging stereotypes directly and by bringing to attention racial slurs.

While some participants actively took on the role of educating coworkers, others felt it should not be their responsibility. It shouldn't be but I don't see who else is going to do it, right? I don't see my manager or patient care leader out there educating you know, the nurses.

They probably don't even know. Some participants felt comfortable addressing inappropriate language, but did not feel comfortable speaking up about broader issues. Some remained silent when overhearing discriminatory remarks in a hospital setting but defended personal racist attacks. Participants spoke at length about fear of educating coworkers. Others did not feel comfortable verbally confronting those who made inappropriate comments and therefore chose to remain silent.

Um, maybe with more assertive skills or, or knowing how to address those things. I don't think we've ever been taught that. It's more if it happens it happens and you say nothing. One nurse decided against working in the hospital because she was sure she would have been the only nurse with dark skin. Numerous participants commented on being able to pass as non-Aboriginal. Many felt that passing was beneficial in terms of their fitting in to the workplace. It helps when you don't have that barrier at first. Many chose not to identify publicly as Aboriginal during training unless asked directly.

One nurse explains how she chose to stay away from Aboriginal groups on campus for fear she would experience discrimination. As long as they didn't know I was Aboriginal, they treated me as equal. But I really felt that if they had known…once they know that, then it's different. On several occasions, participants encountered patients who preferred a White nurse because they assumed that White nurses had more training.

Some participants were quick to challenge these assumptions and to point out that they had equal training. Some felt that their voice was heard by non-Aboriginals specifically because they were Aboriginal. Participants spoke of the high expectations communities had that they would be effective at making the community better. Many felt personal disappointment and the community's disappointment when positive changes did not occur immediately. Participants expressed that they felt very invested in their communities because they belonged to these communities in ways that extended beyond their nursing.

This theme refers to the complacent attitude associated with a marginal representation of Aboriginal people in a given health care organization. It is seen as racism because when an employer hires one Aboriginal person who happens to be successful he or she often thinks that the problem of discrimination has been successfully addressed.

And that's what I mean by token Indian, so that they can make sure that the representation is from our community. They also enjoyed the benefits of attending workshops and committees in order to connect to further resources. Similarly, another nurse experienced tokenism when she first applied for a job in a hospital.