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Student nurse celebrates the impact of Call the Midwife author Jenny Worth

Care Group student health visitor, Sarah Selley, writes about the life and work of Jennifer Worth, a local legend in nursing and the inspiration for the BBC television series ‘Call the Midwife’.

Posted on: 29 May 2024

Jennifer Worth (1935-2011) became an icon for her extraordinary work in the East End of London, where she served the most deprived communities with unwavering commitment. Worth’s journey from a young nurse to a revered figure in healthcare is a testament to the power of delivering high-quality person-centred care in the community.


East End roots 

Worth's connection with the East End began in the 1950s when she joined the district nursing service. It was a time when the area was plagued by poverty, overcrowding, and a lack of adequate healthcare. Despite the challenging conditions, Worth embraced her role with zeal, venturing into the heart of the community to provide medical care and support to those in need. Her experiences formed the basis of her memoir trilogy, starting with "Call the Midwife," which later inspired the popular BBC television series of the same name. In her writings, Worth vividly depicted the harsh realities of life in the East End, from cramped tenements to the struggles of expectant mothers. Through her compassionate storytelling, she shed light on the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity. Her narratives resonated with readers, offering a glimpse into a world that was often overlooked and marginalized.

An empathetic healer

What set Worth apart was not just her medical expertise but her deep empathy for her patients. She didn't just treat symptoms, she sought to understand the underlying causes of illness, whether they were rooted in poverty, neglect, or societal inequality. Her approach was holistic, encompassing not just physical health but also emotional and social wellbeing.

A woman’s advocate

One of Worth's most notable contributions was her advocacy for women's health and reproductive rights. She played a pivotal role in ensuring safe childbirth practices and empowering women to make informed decisions about their bodies. Her experiences gave her firsthand insight into the challenges impoverished mothers faced, from lack of access to contraception to the stigma surrounding unplanned pregnancies.

A community champion 

Beyond her clinical duties, Worth became a trusted confidante and source of comfort for many in the community. She listened without judgment, offering solace in times of sorrow and celebrating moments of joy. Her ability to forge genuine connections with people from all walks of life earned her the respect and admiration of those she served.


In recognition of her contributions, Worth was awarded the Royal Red Cross in 2007 for her services to healthcare. However, her greatest reward was undoubtedly the gratitude of countless lives she touched during her time in the East End.

Jennifer Worth's work demonstrates the profound impact that one person can have on their community. Her legacy continues to inspire future generations of healthcare professionals to follow in her footsteps.

A role model

As a student health visitor, I look with admiration to people like Jennifer Worth and strive to emulate her compassion, devotion, and determination in my own practice. There are many overlaps between her work and the role of the modern-day health visitor, particularly when it comes to delivering sensitive, culturally informed post-partum care to underserved communities. I propose celebrating local heroes such as this by remembering their remarkable work, all year round.