Prof Philda Nomusa Nzimande (born Ndlovu) was born at Ntukuso in Camperdown, KwaZulu-Natal, where she received her primary education. In 1961 she qualified as a general nurse and as a midwife in 1963 at McCord Hospital, in Durban. Thirteen years later, in 1976, Nzimande established a nursing college. She furthered her studies in the field of nursing science and obtained five degrees, including the first Masters degree awarded to a black South African nurse in 1982. Nzimande was among the first nursing educators to obtain a doctoral degree in nursing and was appointed to a professorship.
Nzimande has worked tirelessly to improve the skills of nurses in Durban and KZN, as well as to improve working conditions of black nurses during the apartheid era and promote unity in her profession. Her passion, dedication and hard work led to the establishment of three nursing organisations and she was part of group discussions that led to the formation of the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA). DENOSA is an organisation aimed at representing nurses and uniting the nursing profession. Nzimande has also conducted research on healthcare issues and the nursing profession, and has published a number of academic works. Key events in her career include the following:
- 1989: Invited onto USA council member for Graduate Education for Administration in Nursing
- 1994: Elected first chairperson of Transitional Nurses Committee in South Africa
- 1995: Elected first president of KwaZulu Nurses Organisation
- 1996: First National Chair (President) of the Joint National Board of the Unified DENOSA
- 1997: Elected first president of DENOSA
- Appointed by the national Minister of Health to serve on the South African Interim Medical and Dental Council as a representative for South African nurses. She continued this role in 1998.
- Campus Representative for Durban Umlazi Campus at the Association of Tertiary Institutions
- 2001: Elected to the board of the Commonwealth Nurses Federation, representing 14 countries in East, Central and Southern Africa
- 2014: Honoured by the University of South Africa (UNISA) with the degree of Doctor of Literature and Philosophy
Nzimande is a well-known pioneer in nursing and education, as well as an academic and administrator. When she was honoured by UNISA in 2014, she expressed that in her heart this recognition includes her nursing colleagues with whom she struggled for equal recognition as nurses in South Africa. In an interview with the Daily Sun, Nzimande said that as a young nurse she felt transformation in society was what she wanted to pursue. When she retired, she was Vice-Dean of Arts at the Durban Umlazi Campus, University of Zululand. She has left a legacy of nursing professionals across KZN and South Africa.