Despite having more than 25 years of experience, Asmah says she is always learning
Nt editorial aba asmah
When Aba Asmah goes back to Ghana she doesn’t just visit her mother, her three sisters and her nieces.
“I always go to different hospitals and visit my old colleagues to see how I can help. I just drive around and give them a call and ask if they’re on duty that day. It allows me to enrich my knowledge as well,” she says.
She started her career as a general nurse in Ghana in 1991, and learnt to overcome her nerves early on.
Recalling a particularly nerve-wracking incident during her training, Asmah says, “I remember very clearly a patient coming to A&E with a severe hand injury after an accident. I was shaking like a leaf when I had to give the patient stitches.”
“But once you realise you can do it, you’re in a good place to improve on what you’ve done,” she says.
Asmah moved to the UK in 1994 and worked in a medical unit that was later upgraded to a stroke rehabilitation unit. Then, she completed an 18-month midwifery course at City University.
“I’ve been hopping around a little bit,” she says.
She started her health visiting training in the UK in 2004 and has been in the role ever since, now working at Highbury Grange Health Centre in Islington, north London.
Nursing in Ghana is worlds apart from nursing in the UK, according to Asmah. “You might be in a district where the doctor is three hours away, so you could be the only person on duty - night or day, whereas here [in the UK] there are doctors on your doorstep who you can call at any time.
There are services you just don’t get in Ghana – there’s no health visiting, for example, so the mothers have to travel to the centres.”
In 2010, she became a practice teacher, in which role she supports health visiting students in addition to working with parents and children aged up to five. As a team leader, she is responsible for clinical and restorative supervision.
Aba says health visiting is a branch of nursing many people do not understand. “There are a lot of guidelines but they’re not very rigid. You can go with what the parents have in front of them, so it makes it quite varied,” she notes.
Her role involves giving parents information about childcare, monitoring the development of babies and promoting maternal mental health. “I like the variety of people I meet. No two homes are the same, no two people are the same, and no two children are the same,” she avers.
“It’s not easy being a first-time parent, so I’m there to support them in particular and make sure they get the right information and the right support.”
Despite having more than 25 years of experience, Asmah says she is always learning. “The role enables you to learn about yourself as a parent or as a person. Working with different groups of people teaches you to be tolerant and receptive to new ideas as well as respect,” she says.
But, the biggest lesson she has learnt is the importance of good communication.
“I always say to students ‘there is a person behind the person’. If you ask the right questions, you’ll get to know the real person. I use this a lot in my role because I go into people’s homes and they don’t know me, they might not have even heard my voice.”