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Adwoa Agyei-Benhene

Adwoa Agyei-Benhene is a British-born nurse that lived in London and Essex and began her nursing career in 1983. In her interview, she discusses her parents' migration from Ghana, training and working as a nurse, and experiences as an African woman in the NHS. She is the current General Secretary of the Ghanaian Nursing Association.


It's difficult being a nurse and being a mother because of the shift work. So sometimes childcare is difficult because you've got to get up early. Oh, I see you getting up early. So, it is quite difficult. And then also, yeah, and then the night duty as well, makes it difficult as well.

[About her parents] They came to study. That was their primary purpose. So it was to so like, maybe further their education, then go back to Africa.


Because, okay, at that time, that was there was a ward of about twenty patients. And that was one out of twenty. So on balance, it’s just one person, and it's their problem, not mine.

And that's kind of the way in which you should kind of look at prejudice. It’s not your problem. It's the other person's problem.

But sometimes it's difficult. It is difficult. I think sometimes as a person of colour, you’re, you kind of have to prove yourself a bit more. And everybody has to jump through hoops now, but you might have to jump through an extra hoop.

African Community

Oh, there was definitely a sense of community in the nurses home because you'd get off a shift and then you'd go to the room next door to see your buddy, and then you'd be talking about what had happened on the shift etcetera.

Okay, so gone analysis Association UK was formed in 1993. It's a registered charity, but it's set up to kind of offer support to Ghanaian nurses. And also to, sort of the Ghanaian community in general, it was set up to kind of support a nurse at a time of sort of bereavement or when a nurse passed away

Sunshine, food and seeing family members who you wouldn’t ordinarily see because they don’t live in England.

There's a small African community at my church. It depends which church you go to. Because some, some, some churches have larger than others.

Health Career

That's the certificate you get from where you studied, and so that would be the school of nursing, I think that's probably changed through re-development. Then that would have been my name, which we've taken out, and then it shows 146 weeks.

I enjoy sort of helping people. I'm a people person.

And this is a contract [laughs], that's when I worked at UCL, a contract, and it shows how much I got paid, well it's a salary, I started with £11,000 but that was in 1991 [laughs] £11,505.

There were a few, like in my particular group I think I was one of three. Because the groups used to have, it’d be, they'd have a lot of nurses but it'd be split into small groups of thirty but they'd start every couple of months, and so out of thirty, there were about three African nurses.

Advice to young people

For the younger generation is be proud of who you are also, kind of you've got the younger generation has a greater chance than us to know about their history. Some of it is taught in schools, link up with the parents ask the parents questions, even sometimes ask the probing questions, you know, like, why did you come here? You know, ask about your family background. So try and go back, so like you know, your mum and your dad, you know, your grandparents, go back further. Go back to your great grandparents. Go back to your great great grandparents. You should know their names.

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