Midah was a trained nurse in South Africa during the apartheid, it was when the travel ban was lifted that she decided to move and work in the United Kingdom. In 1999, she began working at Charing Cross Hospital. In her interview, Midah discusses her relationship with becoming a nurse and the role models she’d grown up seeing, as well as racism in the workplace, and comparisons to the African health services.
Migration and Recruitment
I arrived on June, 1999 and I was coming to work in Charing Cross Hospital, as a nurse.
I came here working for the Hammersmith NHS Trust and then everybody was housed in Charing Cross Nurses Home, so that’s where I lived.
There is a nursing magazine every month in South Africa - the Nursing Journal - so they were advertising the jobs from here. There’s a recruitment agency from Ireland.
You know at home in South Africa, the nurses, they really have to wear their uniform, and the uniforms they have to be really clean and tidy and everything. So when I saw a nurse walking - you know there’s a certain way of walking when you’re a nurse there - so now when I saw them walking, I said, “I want to be just like them one day.”
One day I was really, really crying thinking, “I’m done with this place,” because if my colleague, who’s not African, come and do something, she does it wrong, I come and do it a little wrong then I’ll be persecuted.
So he said, “You know, this place is full of black, everything, see I cannot operate here, it’s so black, and then here, the lead nurse here is black, you go into the office, the in-charge is black…
I’ve learned a lot of things that I didn’t do before at home. So I’m really, really grateful for that because it’s like I’m an expert in orthopaedic theatre…
In the UK, discrimination is too much. So, we have a lot of discrimination, it’s just that it’s not like in South Africa because, here you can’t speak about it, but it’s there; they claim to say that this is a free country, but there is a lot of discrimination….
African Community in Britain and Identity
Then we found nurses that came before us, then we formed a group of supporting each other. Because we were staying here in the same place. So we were like a group of people from South Africa.
The people who were recruiting us every time when the people... The new group come, then they will give us their names. That these people here to welcome you or to make you feel at home…
I think we should be allowed to eat whatever you want, the African food, but I could see some other people, they kind of feel like, "what is this? What is this?"
in the workplace, you have to work hard to prove yourself to be, eh, the best you can. So I think, eh, on that level I've reached my level and I'm happy with the way things are for me in there…
So African health services, pretty much the same as yeah. It's free for the, especially for the young ones and for the older people is, yeah, pretty much free. And then if you are a, um, like me working, maybe when you go to consulting, you'll pay a certain fee… Even medication. Unlike here, they will prescribe for you. You have to go and buy there. They will give you ever, the doctor has prescribed for you. So you still go to the health service back home. Still very good.
I just wanted to come and see how nursing is being done in the other world. And you know, how is overseas? Because I've never been anywhere. That was my chance to go. Even I was coming free of charge because they bought me a ticket. They gave me the accommodation. They gave me the bank cards with money in them. So. Why not take that opportunity, at least I can say now I can be able to, I can. I appreciate my country more now because of what I've seen here, what I've learnt here. So I really appreciate South Africa now more than before.
The patients are all the same. Whether it's here or is back home, even our own people. They, there are those who are nasty. Even here, our own people are nasty. So it's just all everywhere. You just have to be to know how to deal with your patients. So that's it.