A Newham resident, who started her nursing career more than 40 years ago, has been awarded a Doctorate in Health from her former higher education institution.
Former GSM London student Mary Clarke CBE received an Honorary Degree in Health more than a decade after completing her Executive MBA course at GSM London’s Greenwich campus. GSM London degrees are accredited and awarded by Plymouth University and Mary received her award from Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Plymouth Professor Simon Payne on 19 April at London’s Barbican Centre.
GSM London Provost Debi Hayes hailed Mary’s impressive career in a moving and inspiring address, which started in 1976 when she trained as a state enrolled nurse.
Mary has progressed through the ranks with roles including staff nurse, senior night sister, senior district nurse sister and primary care manager. In 2001, she was appointed as the Director of Nursing and Quality for City and Hackney Community Health Services NHS Trust and while there, decided to boost her academic qualifications at GSM London’s Greenwich campus.
“I had my nursing qualifications but not a degree and so decided to do a Masters in Health Service Management,” she said. “GSM London offered an Executive MBA programme and the beauty of this course was it was on the weekend. It was difficult to take the whole day off work in the week – so this structure worked well for me. A second advantage for me what that from Newham, it was easy for me to get to Greenwich.”
Both reasons were important as Mary was juggling a full-time job with raising a family as well. “My family were very supportive and what helped was the work I was doing was assignment-based which meant that I could relate it to my full-time job,” she said.
The course helped Mary to move from thinking operational to thinking more strategically. It was also an advantage that while learning, she was meeting other managers and executives from other industries such as BT and London Transport, which helped to build her network base.
“The course also helped me to develop and enhance my report writing skills; improve my ability to write more succinctly, and enhance my research skills,” said Mary. “And a further advantage was my employers at the time funded the course and were flexible in giving me study time while she worked.”
The tools she gained while studying have helped her develop quality improvement and organisational development strategies that her organisation to apply methodologies to streamline activities, measure performance and outcomes for patients and staff satisfaction. The aim was to help staff that she managed work smarter rather than harder. Among Mary’s many career highlights was the leading role she played in the development and delivery of an integrated governance framework covering clinical and non-clinical risk for the organisation she worked for, which inspired the development of a quality and risk policy and strategy framework.
Being West Indian and a woman have presented their challenges through her career but Mary believes that her resilience and having very supportive managers have 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.”
Her advice to others is work to your true potential, ensure every career move helps to increase your skills base and do not be afraid to ask if you don’t know something. You can’t know everything, she said.
In 2005, Mary was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list for services to nursing and was listed by the Health Service Journal in their 50 BME Inspirational Leaders Pioneers List in 2013. She is currently a management consultant and Director of Workforce for City and Hackney GP Confederation, where she takes a lead in primary care nursing, risk management, governance, education commissioning and workforce development initiatives.
She is also tasked with looking after building the NHS’ future workforce by creating career pathways and helping young people to acquire skills through apprenticeships.
Mary’s commitment to the health sector goes back to when she was a child. “I had always wanted to work in the health sector from when I was really small and had set my sights on becoming a nurse. I love the NHS, working with the people there and the patients.”
On receiving the award, Mary said: “I was over the moon and excited to know that people at GSM London such as Brian Buckley (Head of Executive Education Programmes Marketing) and Klair Collins (International Student Support and Compliance Manager) had been keeping track of my career developments. It was a real honour and delight to have this recognition.”