First-ever black NHS nurse was at St Thomas’, inspiring future generation of nurses

Josh Salisbury (28 October, 2020)

Kofoworola Abeni Pratt came to the UK in 1946

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The first-ever black nurse in the NHS worked at St Thomas’, the hospital has revealed, in a bid to inspire nurses and midwives to break down career barriers.

Kofoworola Abeni Pratt came to the UK in 1946, and was the first black student to attend the Nightingale Training School for nurses.

She experienced racism from patients, with one man refusing to be examined by a black nurse.

Born in Nigeria, she qualified as a state registered nurse in 1950, despite being married and having a son.

She became a staff nurse at the Evelina, and later returned to Nigeria. She was originally denied a post as a ward sister, because it was open only to British ex-pats.

Following independence in 1960, she set up the first modern nursing school in Nigeria at the University of Ibadan.

Nurses today say they have been inspired by Kofoworola’s little-known story.

“I am in awe of Kofoworola and how she managed to break barriers throughout her career,” said Alice Denga, a senior nurse at St Thomas’.

“Her determined spirit shows that you should never allow anything to distract you from pursuing a dream.

“She has inspired me to overcome challenges in my career, to persevere and to never give up.”

Another nurse, Kendra Schneller, added: “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.”

Kofoworola died in 1992, aged 77.

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