Page last updated at 07:17 GMT, Thursday, 3 July 2008 08:17 UK

'Everybody was so kind and welcoming'

By Jane Elliott
Health reporter, BBC News


Gloria has happy memories of her nursing career in the NHS

When Jamaican Gloria Nasralla decided to become a nurse she wanted to train in the UK.

The nascent NHS had been recently established and Gloria was sure it would provide an ideal setting for her to pick up valuable experience.

The war years had left a shortage of workers and she was confident that an immigrant worker like herself could expect a warm welcome.

So after a little prompting from her mother the 20-year-old would-be nurse set her sights on Gloucester Royal Infirmary.

I had patients who invited me to their home for tea because they thought I might be homesick and to thank me for my care
Gloria Nasralla

"I had heard about the NHS and thought it was wonderful because in Jamaica everything was so different. There you had to have the means to see a doctor," she said.

"Nearly all my teachers were from England and once in a geography lesson a teacher had mentioned Gloucester and I liked the sound of that. So I applied and was accepted."

Cold climate

On a very cold day in March 1953 Gloria arrived at the Albert Dock, London, after travelling in a ship bringing over Caribbean workers like herself alongside returning UK soldiers.

Gloria Nasralla
Born 3 April 1932 in Kingston, Jamaica
Worked as a civil servant in a post office in Jamaica for a year prior to coming to England
1953-54: Student Nurse at Gloucester Infirmary and the City General (then break in training, which recommenced in 1956)
1958: Qualified as a State Registered Nurse, and practised for four months on a medical ward
1958-60: Midwifery training at St Paul's and The Victoria maternity hospitals, Cheltenham. Practiced for several months post qualification as a Community Midwife
1960: Staff Nurse medical ward at The City General Hospital, Gloucester
1962: Staff Nurse gynaecology, Gloucestershire Royal Hospital
1964: Junior Night Sister, Gloucestershire Royal Hospital
1966: Ward Sister, Gloucestershire Royal Hospital
1983: Nursing Officer, Gloucestershire Royal Hospital
1985: Senior Nurse Manager, Gloucestershire Royal Hospital
1992: Retirement

The most famous of these ships was the SS Windrush, in which Gloria's future husband travelled in 1948, although this was not Gloria's own ship.

Her first impression was of the intense cold - so very different from Jamaica.

"But I was so anxious to see the snow. I was on night duty when it finally snowed," she said.

Gloria, now 76, recalls she spent a while in London watching the preparations for the imminent coronation of Elizabeth before setting off for Gloucester.

"At that time my late uncle lived in London and I was naughty really because I thought I would like to see a little bit of London so I stopped off to see the preparations," she said.

"Then I went to contact the matron and I was told off by the matron."

When Gloria arrived at the hospital she found a very warm welcome and encountered no racism.

"There was a shortage of staff and that is why we were encouraged to come over here. I was made to feel welcome, I really was. I was quite protected really. I lived in because you had to live in then.

No racism

"A lot of the nurses warmed to me and looked after me. They used to come into my room and look at my clothes.

"I had patients who invited me to their home for tea because they thought I might be homesick and to thank me for my care.

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"People asked me many time whether I had settled in the hospital and whether I missed my home.

"People brought me several gifts, including flowers and that was so unexpected.

"I have extremely happy memories of the NHS.

"There were two other Jamaicans when I came, I was the third.

"People would stare at us because they were not used to us, but I didn't come across any racism.

"Although after I qualified there were a couple of occasions where relatives would be quite taken aback that I was Jamaican.

"I remember one occasion when I was the ward sister a relative said she would like to see the sister and when I said it was me I could tell she was a little put out.

"I thought the NHS was good, but I did not really know any different to be honest. But before I started in the NHS I had not even visited anyone in hospital - the whole experience was very strange.

Stayed on

Gloria signed up for three years of nurse training. The intention had been for her to then go back to Jamaica and nurse there, but she met her husband Beresford and they had a child.

"I actually qualified in 1958 because I had to go back after my first baby and complete my training," she said.

"My dear mother thought I would qualify and then return, but I met my husband and stayed. I had intended to do that and go and work in Jamaica."

Gloria loved the NHS so much that she stayed in it until she retired as a nurse manager in 1992.

"Things have changed so much in the NHS since I started," she said.

"Nowadays people are living longer and healthier lives it is more about preventing people becoming ill now, rather than just cures.

"Treatments today are much better and hospital stays are so much shorter and there is so much day surgery.

"The NHS is improving all the time we have gone along a long road - but we still have a long way to go.

"I have so many happy memories of my time in the NHS and thinking about the anniversary has given me a chance to remember the wonderful people and times."


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