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School of Nursing Renamed: Ruth Eleanor McLaughlin Honoured

Front Pages 11 Apr, 2024 Follow News

School of Nursing Renamed: Ruth Eleanor McLaughlin Honoured

By Stuart Wilson

The Inauguration Ceremony for what is now the Ruth Eleanor McLaughlin School of Nursing was held at the University College of the Cayman Islands (UCCI) on 4th April, 2024.

A who’s who of nursing in the Cayman Islands came out to pay tribute to one of the Islands’ pioneers in the field of nursing, referred to by her peers as a ‘trail blazer’ and someone who changed the trajectory of nursing for those who would come after her.

The Sir Vassel Johnson Hall at UCCI was filled to capacity with former students, colleagues, family, friends and members of Cayman’s medical industry for the occasion.

During the ceremony those in attendance heard from former Health Minister and Chairman of the Board of Governors for UCCI, the Honourable Gilbert McLean, who spoke fondly of Mrs. Ruth Eleanor McLaughlin and reminded the audience of her contribution and the importance of the petition to have the nursing programme/school at UCCI named in her honour.

“I am delighted to honour one of our mosts valuable Caymanians. This is an outcome of our traditional Caymanian efforts and citizens playing a role to shape the future’ he noted of the petition for the renaming of the nursing school.

“The Caymanian spirit is alive and well and Mrs. Ruth’s life and service exemplifies the very best our traditions,” he added, whilst reciting the adage: ‘…Nothing about us, without us,’ which has been the slogan of democratic movements around the world.

Mr. McLaughlin noted that the effort to have the school renamed in honour of Mrs. Ruth Eleanor McLaughling was a practice in democracy.

“Petitions are at the top of democratic values,” he remarked, adding that the school’s renaming to honour the nursing industry’s matriarch illustrates how citizens standing up for what they believe in can make a difference.

The Chairman and former Health Minister also thanked the government for its responsiveness and willingness to, “…recognise those who laboured for us to enjoy the life we do today”.

Comments from Cayman Islands Premier Julianna O’Connor-Connolly were read out by a representative, as she was unable to attend the inauguration.

“UCCI has become the cornerstone of healthcare education in the Cayman Islands, with a 100 percent success rate, and unwavering dedication from staff and faculty,” noted remarks by the Premier.

She noted that Mrs. Ruth Eleanor McLaughlin, who was Cayman first Chief Nursing Officer, had played a pivotal role in transforming the Cayman Island Hospital from a 5-bed facility fo over 60, among other great accomplishments such as starting the Islands’ first nursing education programme.

“By renaming the nursing school in her honour we permanently etch her legacy into our national consciousness,” she noted.

Current Health Minister Sabrina Turner, who was once a nurse and is now the first ever female Health Minister to serve in the Cayman Islands Government said it gave her great joy to be able to honour one of the pioneers in the field of nursing in the Cayman Islands.

“Too often we forget where we came from,” she said, adding that ‘trailbalzer’ could not adequately describe the profound contribution of Mrs. Ruth Eleanor McLaughlin and her impact.

“For 30 years she shaped the healthcare industry in the Cayman Islands and as small as our Islands are, we stand on the shoulders of giants,” she declared.

Dr. Hazel Brown delivered remarks on the Life of Service of the late Mrs. Ruth Eleanor McLaughlin on behalf of former Member of Parliament and family member, Ms. Lucille Seymour, who was unable to attend the ceremony.

The youngest of 7 children, Mrs. Ruth Eleanor McLaughlin went to school in San Andrés, Columbia, before returning to the Cayman Islands at 17, at which time she was rewarded a scholarship to attend the Triple C School in Grand Cayman, graduating Valedictorian in 1951.

In 1952, after having her appendix removed and experiencing how the nurses had cared for her, she decided to embark on her own personal journey in nursing, attending university and further training before returning to the Cayman Islands and joining the staff at the Hospital in 1958. 

During her time in nursing and midwifery, she delivered over 600 babies.

Her vision went far beyond the available resources at the time, however and she remained committed to improving the Islands’ Health services.

She introduced the first nursing school in the Cayman Islands in 1971, which produced dozens of nurses and midwives and was also one of the founding members of the Cayman Islands Nursing Association.

In 1975 she was awarded the Member of the British Empire distinction and retired from service in 1986.

Transformation under her command was ‘simply phenomenal’, according to Mrs. Seymours conveyed remarks.

She was also a founder of the Business and Professional Women’s Club and was posthumously awarded the Early Pioneer of Medical Services Award.

The fist Cohort to have attended her nursing school in 1971 were also present at the ceremony in honour of their mentor and teacher.

Keynote Speaker Mrs. Hyacinth Rose, told the audience that she considered it a blessing beyond measure to be able to shed light on the vision and life’s work of Mrs. Ruth Eleanor McLaughlin.

“May all who come behind us, find us faithful,” she remarked, adding that, “Her story is our story and we are happy to attest that her diligence.”

Mrs. Rose said historically nursing has faced a struggle to receive its due among other professions and was not clearly define, particularly in the Cayman Islands.

“We were doctors, anesthetists, ambulance drivers….”

She added that the Cayman Mrs. Ruth Eleanor McLaughlin found herself in was challenging and change was slow.

“Many doctors who came to the Islands had never heard of some illnesses such as fish poisoning but were expected to supervise,” said Mrs. Rose, who explained that the nurses at the time quietly and compassionately schooled the newcomers and mentored them, as the care of patients was the ultimate objective.

“She pushed her nurses and made available every opportunity for higher learning while maintaining a quiet and dignified presence,’ said Mrs. Rose, who added that Mrs. Ruth Eleanor McLaughlin was also a woman of faith.

Unveiling of new signage at UCCI in honour of Mrs. Ruth Eleanor McLaughlin was led by Members of Parliament, along with members of the school’s faculty.

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