Nursing leaders at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust have told how the story of pioneering Black nurse Kofoworola Abeni Pratt had provided them with inspiration in their own careers.
To mark Black History Month in October, the trust has been shining light on Kofoworola, who was the first Black nurse to work in the NHS but whose name is not well known.
“Her experiences have paved the way for Black nurses like myself to be determined to achieve”
Nigeria-born Kofoworola came to the UK in 1946 and attended the Nightingale Training School for Nurses at St Thomas’ Hospital.
She qualified as a state registered nurse in 1950 in spite of her father’s disproval of nursing as a suitable career choice.
It was also unusual for a married woman such as she was to enter the profession at that time.
She worked for the NHS for four years, the first qualified Black nurse to do so, and held positions at Evelina London Children’s Hospital and St Thomas’ Hospital.
In 1954, Kofoworola returned to Nigeria and was instrumental in developing modern nursing practices in the country following its independence from British rule.
She went on to become chief nursing officer for Nigeria and was the first Black woman to be named vice-president of the International Council of Nurses.
Two nurses from Guy’s and St Thomas’ explained the significance of Kofoworola’s legacy for them and other Black nurses.
Kendra Schneller, a nurse practitioner in the trust’s health inclusion team, said: “Kofoworola has been an inspiration to me because despite the challenges she faced working as the first Black nurse in the NHS and in her native Nigeria, she did not let that hold her back from pursuing her goals.
“Her experiences have paved the way for Black nurses like myself to be determined to achieve and continue the belief that we are the change makers and the effort must continue.”
Alice Denga, head of nursing for women’s and gynaecology, said she was “in awe” of Kofoworola and what she achieved.
“She has inspired me to overcome challenges in my career, to persevere and to never give up”
“Her determined spirit shows that you should never allow anything to distract you from pursuing a dream,” added Ms Denga.
“She has inspired me to overcome challenges in my career, to persevere and to never give up.
“The passion that I have for providing the best possible care for patients through developing cohesive teams has always been my focus and I hope to continue for many years to come.”
Both Ms Schneller and Ms Denga recently shared their experiences for a “career conversation” webinar held by Guy’s and St Thomas’ as part of its Black History Month activities.
This year the pair also became ‘Nightingale Nurses’, having received the Nightingale Nurse and Midwife Award.
The award is unique to Guy’s and St Thomas’ and recognises nurses and midwives who demonstrate outstanding practice and play out the trust’s values on a daily basis.