Tryphena Anderson and the Black Migrant Nurses of the NHS
Part of our #BlackHistoryMonth series, celebrating inspirational Black figures in healthcare.
Tryphena Anderson was born in 1933 in Jamaica. At only 19, and a week after her graduation, she moved to the UK, after the UK government put out a call for staff to join the new National Health Service.
Anderson was one amongst hundreds of Caribbean people who responded to the call. Arriving in the UK in 1952, she completed her training at Nottingham General Hospital, working as a junior nurse.
She faced adversity at times: “When the bus fills up and you’re the last one to have somebody beside you, you know something is wrong. You say to yourself - come on, be yourself, be strong”, she stated. Nevertheless, she persisted.
In 1954, Anderson took a break from nursing to have a baby – something quite controversial at the time. “To continue nursing I had to find somewhere that would take me with children and allow me to live out, as approximately 98% of nurses were required to live in”, she stated.
"The NHS owes a great debt to migrant nurses the world over who answered the call to tend a welfare state in its infancy." - Dame Donna Kinnair
She did eventually find a psychiatric hospital to work at – the Coppice – and after working here for a period, undertook postgraduate training at the Nottingham City Hospital where she qualified as a midwife. Later, Anderson was accepted for a year-long course in health visiting training, becoming the first ever Black person on a bursary in health visiting.
After over thirty years working for the NHS, in 1988 Anderson bought a nursing home which she ran for 14 years, until 2002.
Anderson was part of the Windrush generation - but the story of Black nurses in the UK stretches back even beyond this time. Nurses such as Mary Seacole, Annie Brewster, Eva Lowe, Princess Tsehai and Princess Ademola are just some of the women who paved the way.
As Dame Donna Kinnair states, “The NHS owes a great debt to migrant nurses the world over who answered the call to tend a welfare state in its infancy. We mustn’t forget the nurses from Africa, India and the Caribbean who lit the path.” ♦