Windrush Day – a personal reflection


Mwansa Mulenga is a Senior Corporate nurse at the University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust and a FNF Alumni Champion. In this personal blog, she shares what Windrush Day signifies to her and reflects on what it means to be an internationally educated nurse in the UK.

“I attained my nursing qualification in Zambia and migrated to England as an overseas nurse. I completed my adaptation here in England to practice as a qualified registered nurse. The Overseas Nurses Programme empowered me in understanding the United Kingdom healthcare system which helped in establishing myself in my role.

My Florence Nightingale Foundation journey began at UH Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust. I received an email containing information on the FNF leadership programme with words reading: Please consider this… you would be fab.

I was awarded a place on the Windrush programme which I am grateful for. Despite not having direct links with the Windrush generation, my history generates from this. Zambia remains a member of the British commonwealth since its independence in 1964.

“I reflect on the experiences of the Windrush nurses and how we can endeavour  to change the narrative in our workplaces”

Celebrating Windrush Day

22 June is a day to celebrate when the first passengers disembarked from the HMT Empire Windrush at the Port of Tilbury after a call from the British Prime Minister requesting Commonwealth countries to come and support after World War II.

It is a day to remember the work of the Windrush nurses and also the contributions of Mary Seacole towards the health of the people. Mary Seacole’s values – her desire to help the sick and wounded, great entrepreneurship – make her a great role model.

I dedicate this day to remind myself of the many internationally educated nurses who have come to England through the years. I reflect on the many experiences of the Windrush nurses and how we can endeavour in modern times to change the narrative in our workplaces so that we are change agents to the many challenges new nurses may experience.

“The African Caribbean nurses’ contributions to the NHS are invaluable”

This is one of the reasons why I remain passionate in my nursing career – ensuring that people understand that being in a new environment is the most daunting thing one can experience. Being a nurse is not just about being competent in the theory and practical elements, it also encompasses the pastoral support one needs to flourish in the role. Induction and preceptorship programmes should be upheld for any new starter in a new place, irrespective of being long in service or newly qualified.

The African Caribbean nurses’ contributions to the NHS are invaluable. Reading through some of the history and challenges these nurses faced, like isolation and rejection, combined with my own personal experiences, led me to consider how to empower internationally educated nurses and how to be a champion for culture and diversity within my workplace.

Being an advocate for change

I now lead on a project in the nursing workforce called ‘the glass ceiling effect’. NHS reports across the country have alluded to the fact that there is under representation of staff from a Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) background in senior positions. However, here at UHDB, starting from Band 5, we work towards identifying and alleviating the barriers and challenges so that we can have an equitable diverse workforce.

I work alongside the Freedom to Speak Up Guardian (FTSUG) and the Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) teams to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard. Leading the staff network for BAME colleagues at our trust has enabled me to be an advocate for change.”