Meet Coco, nurse leader and Nightingale Fellowship scholar

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FNF scholar Coco
FNF scholar Coco Kienwald

We were delighted to recently meet Cochava Kienwald, the Preceptorship Lead at North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust and a 2022/23 Florence Nightingale Foundation scholar. Cochava (known as Coco) has recently been awarded the illustrious Nightingale Fellowship scholarship from the Nightingale Fellowship, a truly remarkable achievement. This highly sought-after scholarship can be life-changing, and Coco could not be more deserving of it.

Joining us for the conversation was the inspirational nurse leader Dr Emily McWhirter, a Trustee of the Nightingale Fellowship and a FNF scholar and mentor. Emily, who is the Senior Consultant to the Chief Nurse at the World Health Organisation, shared the Fellowship’s excitement in Coco being awarded the scholarship and explained how it can lead to great things in nursing…

“I graduated in 2014 and started working at North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust. I took a position on the acute medical unit as a Staff Nurse and I loved the challenge of the busy pace of the unit. It was never-ending learning. Then two years in, I was ready for a new challenge. I was finding the day-to-day quite manageable and I thought, you know what? I can push myself a little bit further. I applied for a band six position in the same department and I was successful. I was quite shocked, and I think on reflection, I didn’t really have great confidence and I didn’t see myself as a leader. I looked at all the other applicants and went, ‘Why did you pick me? But OK, I’m up for it.’

I carried on pushing myself to learn and progress. I loved the acute medical unit and everything that it threw at me but felt I could do something different. I loved to teach, I loved working with students, I loved supporting new staff, and I started a seconded position as a Practice Development Nurse. I loved it and decided Education was for me, so I applied for a job as Preceptorship Lead, and that’s where I am. In the meantime, through COVID, I did some exciting work that I’m really proud of – I took up the post of Clinical and Operational Lead in a mass vaccination centre in the community. That was, I think, the first time I truly saw myself as a leader. I saw it myself and through feedback from my team who told me I could do it.

“I look at leaders in our organisation who are absolutely phenomenal. They’re really inspiring people and many of them have done FNF”

My confidence in my leadership style is not quite there. I can see I’ve made progress but there’s so much more I think I can achieve if I have the network, the support, the skills and the confidence. That’s why I applied to the Florence Nightingale Foundation. I look at leaders in our organisation who are absolutely phenomenal. They’re really inspiring people to work with and many of them have done FNF programmes. They rave about the experience and how it’s built them and shaped them.

When I look at my newly registered staff, be them nurses, midwives, allied health care professionals or registered nursing associates, my hope is that I’m instilling them with the confidence to speak out, to say, ‘This needs improvement. This needs to change. I have an idea. How can I go about making change?’ Because they’re coming in with fresh eyes and we need them to have a voice. That for me is so important. A trust can be so big and there are so many nurses and the newly registered practitioners can feel that they don’t have a voice within that huge hierarchy. I believe that if you can instil the confidence in people, you can make it happen.

“My role as an Educator is to support newly registered staff and get them to have the confidence to say what they’re feeling”

North Middlesex is one of the smaller London hospitals and this comes with some advantages, one being that it’s more like a family, we all know each other and in my role I value being able to name all my preceptees. In Education (known as ‘the green team’ in reference to our uniforms) people approach us for all sorts of questions and even though we might not be the right person, we’ll help guide them in the right direction. Similarly all our newly registered staff would recognize our Chief Nurse, she makes the time to meet them and present them with a badge to welcome them to our organisation. We have things like Tea and talk with the Chief Nurse, where they can have a chat and explain what’s going on within their department. My role as an Educator is to support them and is also about getting them to have the confidence to say what they’re feeling. I’m so proud of them, some of them have spoken up and made real change happen and that’s amazing.”

“It sounds to me, Coco, that this is coming at a perfect time for you. I’m delighted. I think you get opportunities every so often in your life and you have to just run towards them with open arms. Your interview feedback was ‘excellent, outstanding approach, great project’.

Emily McWhirter
Nightingale Fellowship Trustee Dr Emily McWhirter

I look back on my 37 years of nursing; I don’t remember the Chief Nurses, but I remember the people in green who helped me. I think that’s a really important lesson: you have these figureheads in hospitals, and I’ve been one, but it’s about the people on the ground who you go to to ask questions. Those are the people who will really help you. Hopefully this course will help you build your confidence to know how influential you can be to people who need your help.

“I received the Nightingale Fellowship scholarships in 2015 and I had a year at Harvard Business School. It was a game changer for my nursing”


The Florence Nightingale Foundation Fellowship is an alumni of nurses who trained at the Nightingale School of Nursing, then it expanded to include the Nightingale Institute. It was a charity set up to further education and support nurses who fall on hard times and. Last year, they had a significant fund to support mass education and they decided to give that to the Florence Nightingale Foundation to administer under the umbrella of it being a scholarship supported by the Nightingale Fellowship. I received it myself in 2015 and I had a year at Harvard Business School through the funds. It was a game changer for my nursing. It was just awesome. I was there working on a health education and healthcare management programme with an alumni from all over the world. Even now, we still communicate daily on a WhatsApp group. We’ve been all over the world, visiting each other’s hospitals, each other’s workplaces. The support around projects is amazing. Where it puts you has without doubt helped me get the job I have now, which is the Consultant Advisor to Elizabeth Iro, the Chief Nurse at WHO in Geneva.

“I’m so interested in how these scholarships can change your career and how precious they are”

These opportunities come up so rarely; you can really look back and go, ‘If I hadn’t had that, I wouldn’t have done what I’ve done.’ And what I’ve done is super interesting and it’s taken me down a very different path. That’s why I’m so interested in how these scholarships can change your career and how precious they are. Few people get the chance to experience something that will really help them, for free. FNF funded a year of my PhD; I wouldn’t have got to Harvard if I hadn’t done a PhD and I wouldn’t have got to do what I do if it hadn’t been for other funds. All through my career, I’ve benefited from the generosity of people who have donated money to people to support them. I see that it’s got a huge impact and value.

I’m really excited to be part of your journey, Coco, and I’m really keen to follow your progress. It’s so lovely to hear what you’ve done and I wish you all the best. I know it will be really exciting for you.”