Breaking barriers and building bridges: A black woman’s journey to nursing excellence

Penny McGonagle, Registered Nurse Associate in Main Theatres talks about her journey from Ireland to become a a registered nurse here at NNUH and what she’s noticed as a black woman.

In 2017, I embarked on a journey from Ireland to Norfolk, fuelled by the passion to make a difference in healthcare. As a black woman pursuing a nursing degree apprenticeship, my path has been a testament to the evolving landscape of diversity and inclusion. In this blog post, I’d like to share my personal experiences and reflections on how the perception of race and culture in healthcare has evolved, and how I’ve grown through it all.

My journey began as a support worker, a role that allowed me to witness firsthand the challenges and triumphs of the healthcare system. For some, my presence as a black woman from Ireland was unexpected, challenging preconceived notions about Irish heritage.

As I progressed through my nursing education, I noticed a significant shift in the language used within the healthcare environment. Conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion became more prevalent. People began to recognise the importance of cultural competence and how it can positively impact patient care and peers.

One of the most significant changes I’ve witnessed is the increasing representation of individuals from diverse backgrounds in healthcare. This shift not only reflects the changing demographics of our society but also acknowledges the wealth of talent and potential within these communities. As I work towards completing my nursing degree apprenticeship to become a Registered Nurse (RN), I stand as a symbol of the progress made in diversifying the healthcare workforce.

In 2023, it’s evident that the healthcare industry is actively working to create a more inclusive environment. It’s a recognition that diversity is not just a buzzword but a powerful force that enriches patient care. We’ve come a long way in acknowledging that black people are an integral part of the healthcare community, and contributions are invaluable.

My journey from Ireland to Norfolk has been one of personal and professional growth, and I am proud to be part of an evolving healthcare landscape that values diversity, equity, and inclusion. As I near the completion of my nursing degree apprenticeship, I look forward to continuing my career as an RN, contributing to the well-being of patients, peers and breaking down barriers for future generations of healthcare professionals from diverse backgrounds. Together, we can build a more inclusive and compassionate healthcare system for all.

Penny McGonagle, Main Theatres, Registered Nurse Associate