Nursing Organization Makes And Shapes History 

Members of The Central Florida Black Nurses Association of Orlando
Founders of CFBNA
Bernice Edwards, co-founder
Susie Forehand, co-founder

ORLANDO – The Central Florida Black Nurses Association of Orlando (CFBNA) is a vital part of Black history. In 1982, the CFBNA made history as the first Black non-sorority nursing organization in the Central Florida Area. The mission of this organization is to represent and provide a forum for Black nurses to advocate for and implement strategies to ensure access to the highest quality of healthcare for persons of color and to award educational scholarships for nursing students.

The CFBNA has contributed to and shaped the present and future community in many ways. Thousands of residents of all ethnic groups in Orange, Lake, Seminole, and Osceola County have received health screening and health education by the dedicated and highly qualified nurses of this organization with the intent to cultivate a healthier community through the promotion of health and the prevention of diseases. Another way that CFBNA gives to the community is the through the award of educational scholarships. This initiative aids with the recruitment and retention of nurses towards the nursing profession with the aim to alleviate the nursing shortage. Numerous members have been scholarship recipients laying a foundation for individuals to reach their career goals. While, the CFBNA has made a positive impact on many lives in the past, present, and plans to continue in the future behind every historic and successful organization there is a heart-warming story of its beginnings.

The story of CFBNA began in the early summer of 1982. Bernice Edwards, RN met Mrs. Wilma Laray RN while representing her church’s nurse’s guild at a conference in Jacksonville FL.  They began speaking about Black professional nursing organizations and Laray informed Edwards of her active participation in a Jacksonville Black nurses sorority.  This conversation sparked Edwards’ interest in exploring the idea of forming a Black nurses’ organization in Orlando.

Highly motivated to pursue and realize her vision, initially, Edwards shared her idea with her charge nurse Mercerdese Clark and a fellow nurse Susie Forehand.  Clark and Forehand embraced the concept, and they joined Edwards in advertising and promoting the project by making phone calls, mailing letters and inviting prospective members by word of mouth.  Several nurses showed interest in the proposed establishment of a nurse’s organization in the Central Florida area resulting in two interest meetings at Clark’s home, one of which Laray attended to give general information on the operations of a nursing organization.

With group consensus, the Central Florida Black Nurses Chapter was formed. Clark served as the first chapter president. For 12 years, the group operated independently, without affiliation with the National Black Nurses Association NBNA or a Black nurses’ sorority. In August 1994, under the leadership of President Juanita Green, the chapter was chartered and became a member of NBNA in Las Vegas NV.  Then, their name officially changed to Central Florida Black Nurses Association of Orlando.

With intentionality and excitement, the story of the CFBNA continues, a firm foundation is being laid for the future. The CFBNA members consist of individuals from diverse ethnic cultures and nursing specialties. Our diversity has helped us reach more people with a greater impact. As a result, numerous national and community awards have been received, and sponsors and grantors have donated significant funds toward scholarships and community health and wellness programs, and our Advisory Board has volunteered numerous hours. With humility and honor, CFBNA is an authorized educational provider for the Florida Board of Nursing and the Florida Certification Board for Community Health Workers. Few organizations hold both accreditations.

This year, the CFBNA has made a major contribution to the Central Florida community. The first Mini Nurse Academy at the Ivey Lane Middle school was completed in January 2023. This initiative borne by the National Black Nurses Association (NBNA) by Dr. Martha Dawson, current NBNA President. The program introduces youth to the nursing profession with the intent to build a pipeline for future nurses. A total of 12 students in grades 3-5 attended and graduated from the Mini Nurses Academy training.

Over the past 40 years, there have been many historic moments and milestones of which we are proud and give God the glory. During Black History Month, we celebrate those who made these accomplishments possible. In appreciation, we recognize the vision and courage of our cofounders – Bernice Edwards, Susie Forehand, and Mercerdese Clark (deceased), the work of dedicated CFBNA members, the support of sponsors, and the community residents served who believe in our mission.

“Looking back, I have witnessed steady growth and development of this organization and I am proud of our numerous accomplishments,” said co-founder Bernice Edwards, RN.  “I extend my best wishes for the on-going success of this group in their future endeavors.”

“Over the years this group has continued to flourish and is stronger today than ever,” said co-founder Susie Forehand, RN, BSN, MSN, M.Ed. “Our association has recruited new members, partnered with other health related agencies and maintained an active presence in the Central Florida area.”

Being a member of CFBNA is an enriching experience. Each member is valued and provided the opportunity to use their knowledge and skills to fulfill the mission.

Lois Wilson, former president, coined that “Our organization serves as a ‘communi-versity’; we take the information we have learned in colleges and universities to teach and inform our community. This knowledge helps to progress our community towards wellness and health related goals.”

With the aim to continue impacting the health our community 40 years and beyond, the CFBNA remains focused on improving health equity by facilitating access to health care and quality services. “I am grateful that we made history that is shaping our present and future for nurses and the community. With joy, I proclaim that the contributions and accomplishments of our organization are the direct result of God who has blessed the work of our hands and hearts,” said Dr. Jennifer Sankey, current president.

The CFBNA is eagerly inviting those who are interested in becoming a sponsor or a member to visit their website