Calls by Black leaders to end the blanket discrimination against Black nurses finally bore fruit. KEMH lifted its ban against the hiring of Black nurses following a recommendation of the 1953 Inter-Racial Committee.
In 1958, two UK-trained Black nurses joined the staff of KEMH. The unwelcoming environment caused Dr. Juanita Guishard Packwood to quit within weeks. Barbara “Lovie” Davis Wade was hired later that year—and entered the history books as KEMH’s first Black staff nurse. She was followed by Flora Marlene Trott.
Clare Harford and Gleena Gilbert got their start at the Children’s Hospital Convalescent Hospital in Dockyard, before qualifying in the UK as State Registered Nurses (SRNs) and State Certified Midwives (SCMs).
In 1961, Clare Harford became Bermuda’s second Queen’s Nurse. (Lorraine Dyer Bizek was the first). Gleena Gilbert became the Island’s third Queen’s Nurse in 1962. Both women returned to Bermuda to work, before moving to the US.
The fight for equality would continue beyond 1958. In 1963, Leonie Harford Simmons, the Island’s fourth Queen’s Nurse, joined the district nursing service as its first Bermudian nurse.
When the Cottage Hospital Nursing Home closed in 1956, she and Muriel Basden were sent to the UK to qualify as SRNs and SCMs. Returning home additionally qualified, Muriel Basden was told there were no vacancies at KEMH. So she went back to the UK.
But there would be no turning back. Jacqueline Lightbourne rose up the Health Department ranks to become Chief Nursing Officer. In 1984, Lucille Parker Swan became KEMH’s first Black Bermudian Director of Nursing.