Professor Laura Serrant
Professor of Nursing, Sheffield Hallam University
She says her motto is “lift as you climb” – and Professor Serrant’s long and distinguished career in healthcare is testament to that.
One of only six (out of 262) black professors of nursing in the UK, she is a determined and impassioned voice for equality. Named one of the ‘most inspirational women in healthcare’ by the Health Services Journal, she began her career as a nurse and outreach worker with prostitutes, BME communities, drug and alcohol dependents and the homeless, and during the early 1990s worked to tackle social attitudes to HIV and AIDS.
Her specialist areas of research include health disparities, diversity leadership, sexual health and transcultural issues in health and wellbeing.
She has published high profile papers on topics ranging from prostate cancer advocacy for black-Caribbean men, evaluation of nurse-led anxiety management, the promotion of sexual health screening programmes among students and inequalities in British south Asian women’s health experiences.
Her career in academia began by chance, when she was asked to cover for a friend at a Nottingham college healthcare education evening. She ended up director of care, health and childcare services there, before joining the University of Nottingham as head of adult health.
Now Professor of Nursing in the Centre for Health and Social Care Research at Sheffield Hallam, Professor Serrant has developed and published a theoretical framework for conducting research into compassion in practice, called The Silences Framework.
She is chair of the Chief Nursing Office for England’s BME Strategic Advisory Group, a member of the Government’s independent advisory group on black and minority ethnic issues and an ambassador for the Equality Challenge Unit for Higher Education.
A 2017 Florence Nightingale scholar – a prestigious research funding award – she is also an impassioned ambassador for the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue, a tribute to the Jamaican-born Crimean war nurse. It was unveiled in the garden of St Thomas’ Hospital, London, following a long campaign by volunteers including Professor Serrant. As a former Mary Seacole Nursing Leadership Award winner she describes the 19th century nurse as “one of the giants on whose shoulders I proudly stand”.
She has won numerous awards, including Fellowship of the Queens Nursing Institute for her leadership in community nursing. In 2010, she was appointed to the Prime Minister’s commission for the review of Nursing and Midwifery by the Department of Health. She was a key influencer in the development of the first national strategy for sexual health and HIV for England in 2001.
During an 18-month secondment she was head of evidence and strategy at NHS England’s Nursing Directorate, leading a new national approach to work for nurses, midwives and care staff, which was launched in April 2016.
She is visiting professor at The University of the West Indies, The Faculty of Health Sciences at Dominica State College and Universidade Federal do Rio Grande Do Sul, Brazil and the Warsaw Medical University, Poland. She has also served as a Non-executive Director at the Heart of England Foundation Trust and Skills for Health Academy, England.