Marlaine Smith (1950 – )

Inspiration for Activism Part II –

I have been an activist for the autonomy of nursing as a professional discipline. When I was 26, a young faculty member, I led a “sit-in” in the President of the University’s office to protest naming a pharmacy professor as Interim Dean of the School of Nursing. I have a letter of insubordination in my file and I remember several faculty members informing me , “your career is over”! Since that time I’ve published articles that have challenged the status quo in nursing.

Last year after the shootings at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida our students and faculty were in shock and grief. Activism and advocacy are expressions of caring, and as dean I called for a meeting of faculty, staff and students. We decided to form an activist group called Nurses Advocating for Peace and Safety (NAPS). NAPS took action to influence our legislators through letter writing campaigns, marched in the March for our Lives and the March for Families, held active shooter and shelter-in-place training, increased awareness about current gun laws not being enforced, and offered holistic care to those suffering from the trauma of the violence. NAPS is still very active.

On February 27th we are holding a forum, From Tragedy to Transformation: Reflections and Lessons Learned from the MSD Tragedy”. A parent of one of the victims, an activist himself, and a student survivor and her parent will speak with Q&A focused on continuing action.

Download a flyer for the February 27th event!  

Brenda Kucirka (1961 – )

Inspiration for Activism Part II –

  • Tireless Advocate for marginalized and vulnerable populations in the Chester PA community; Assistant Professor at Widener University, Chester PA (see Widener Magazine 2016 — Vol. 26, No. 1)
  • Nurse educator and Psychiatric Mental Health Clinical Nurse Specialist with a passion for social justice and decreasing stigma and oppression. I strive to educate nurses who embrace the role of change agent and advocate willing to step into the space between call and response with eyes and ear wide open.
  • Recipient of the Widener University 2018 Civic Engagement Award
  • Trained as an Inside Out Instructor in 2015
  • Teaches a Social Justice and Advocacy Inside Out Prison Exchange Course at SCI Chester, a medium security prison in Chester, PA. (see photo below of the the outside student cohort from the Widener University School of Nursing Fall 2018 Social Justice & Advocacy Inside Out Prison Exchange Course – used by permission)
  • Advocated for college credits to be awarded to incarcerated individuals enrolled in the Inside Out Prison Exchange course.
  • Originally a community-based service learning course, The Advocacy and Social Justice service learning course was redesigned as an Inside Out Prison Exchange Course in 2017. The course has been recognized as a high impact teaching practice that has was presented at the NLN Summit in 2018.


I have always been drawn to those who are misunderstood, misrepresented and stigmatized. I find my calling to be one of bearing witness, stepping into the spaces and places that society finds unacceptable or unworthy. I am always inspired by and grateful to those who share their stories with me.

My activism has grown out of a deep concern for issues of social justice and a desire to support marginalized populations in Chester PA by confronting injustice and health disparities. I am moved by the power of one’s narrative & seek to provide a venue for validating and valuing the voice of vulnerable and marginalized populations. My work in the community and with students has been focused on facilitating the development of self-compassion and self-empowerment

My work focuses on social justice as a fundamental human right that is central to nursing and the core values of nursing. It has been my privilege to be in a position in which I have earned the respect of students, colleagues and my community through my work in the area of social justice. I strive to inspire those I encounter to find their voice and to use their voice to advocate for self and others. I believe the work I am doing will have a ripple effect as students enter the profession with a sense of compassion for self and others as well as the intention to seek social justice for those they care for and their communities.


  • Volunteers at Threshold of Delaware County teaching decision making skills to incarcerated individuals
  • Volunteers at City Team Ministries in Chester PA providing staff supervision and group psychotherapy and psychoeducation for men in the Rescue and Recovery Program
  • Volunteers at the State Correctional Institute in Chester PA facilitating mental health and wellness seminars for men in the Transitional Housing Unit as well as those serving juvenile life sentences and life sentences.
  • Advisory Board member for Providence House, a Clubhouse providing psychosocial rehabilitation in the community. Established a partnership with the Widener School of Nursing and Providence House to provide psychoeducation and an annual health and wellness fair for clubhouse members.
  • Serves on the City of Chester’s Reentry Committee

The outside student cohort from the Widener University School of Nursing Fall 2018 Social Justice & Advocacy Inside Out Prison Exchange Course.


Nicky Lambert (1973 – )

Inspiration for Activism Part II –

My name is Nicky and I’m a mental health health nurse living in London. I’ve been a nurse for 20 years and I now teach the next generations as an Associate Professor. I have nursing to thank for helping me find my voice. If it wasn’t for the mentoring and guidance I received from the nurses who encouraged and supported me I wouldn’t be in a position to give back to others now.

My activism is mainly situated around supporting women’s mental and physical well-being. I use my nursing skills to do that in a number of ways. I initially went down the traditional routes of service development, policy writing etc. and though I still use the research and writing skills I learned as a nurse to bring focus to under-served populations and to make the great work of others as accessible as possible; I have experiences from my own work that I can use to encourage good practice.

However a real turning point for me was when I was quoted at a conference talking about nursing and politics on twitter and realized how scared I was that I’d done something wrong by speaking up. I had somehow come to believe that being neutral is a sign of professionalism – certainly there are expectations of compassion and good sense for all nurses but it’s not wrong to say what you think. Nursing gives us privileged access to parts of society that mean our perspectives and opinions are not only valid but helpful to finding ways forward. I think we have a moral duty to be active in the ways that we can, to promote healthy societies.

I use my experience as a nurse to raise understanding of women’s health needs including working with a number of organizations to launch a Period Dignity campaign. I’m also lucky to be working with some amazing nurse specialists to create a topic guide for menopause and mental health.

Like all nurses I have skills in organization, risk assessment and communication – I use them to help people with extra needs (commonly physical and mental health issues) to participate in society via protest marches and community art projects. This year 4 UK cities saw #Processions2018 a celebration of the first women getting the vote in Britain (see more information here).

Most recently I was thrilled and very, very proud when working on the 50:50 Parliament campaign (it’s a cross-party initiative to achieve an inclusive, gender-balanced parliament) to see nursing friends who I didn’t know were interested coming forward to stand. These are activities which whilst not directly nursing, do what nursing does by enriching and strengthening people to live the best lives they can.

Nurses don’t always think about the skills and gifts they have as valuable but they have never been more needed. I’ve been a trustee for a women’s center near my flat for a few years now and my nursing experience has enabled me to contribute usefully. One of the ways that I help as a nurse, is by supporting a ‘ground-up health’ initiative by women who organize health information sessions and develop a health calendar translated in to the languages common within their area. It’s really fulfilling to see people get the confidence to source the knowledge they want and give it to others in a useful format as a gift.

I had the privilege of meeting nurse activist colleagues at the Nurse Activism Think Tank this year and it made me think about my responsibility to be more open about my nursing work in this area. The community and fellowship I found there helped me to be a bit bolder in doing it!

I will do my best to get to the next one – see the information here!

Christine Davis (1950 – )

Inspiration for Activism Part II –

  • Advocacy for those impacted by mental illness and addictions. 
  • Death care of vulnerable individuals.
  • Worked for many years with people living with violence either past or present. I work with children, adolescents, women and men who have been sexually abused and sexually assaulted by people in positions of power and trust. Parents, intimate partners, clergy, teachers, friends, coaches, strangers, police……
  • Worked as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner.
  • I am often humbled by the strength and resilience of people of all ages who have lived their lives with the power of their experiences impacting their lives.
  • I also work with people living with mental illness.
  • I am saddened and frustrated by the system(s) and the treatment received by people from those in a position of power and “caring”. The strength of the human spirit to resist and to continue to seek out someone who will believe, who will care is to be honoured.

Cory Ellen Gatrall (1979 – )

Inspiration for Activism Part II –

  • Ally, advocate, and activist for Reproductive Justice
  • Full spectrum OB/sexual and reproductive health nurse, including abortion services
  • Five College Associate and historian of nursing and medicine
  • Former full spectrum doula, childbirth educator, and lactation counselor, supporting pregnant people through all reproductive outcomes
  • Founder of LA For Choice

My story

I came to nursing through activism, rather than the other way around. For fifteen years before I went to nursing school, I organized and agitated in my communities around issues related to reproductive choice and health. Becoming a nurse was the way to bring my passion for care work and my passion for reproductive justice together. Now I work at the bedside in labor & delivery/postpartum care as well as in abortion services. In addition, I hold an appointment as a Five College Associate, which supports me in researching, writing, and speaking about the history of nursing and medicine. Right now I am investigating the historical development of the cultural competency model in nursing and nursing education, with the goal of moving us as a field toward structural competency without reproducing the problems of earlier models.