Bernice Anokye is the director of nursing at Shangri-La Aged Care Home, a Hall & Prior facility in Hurstville, in Sydney. In this profile, she relates the story of her time growing up in Ghana, traveling to Australia to study nursing and gerontology and her thoughts on the future of aged care in Australia.
NR: What is your personal and educational background?
BA: I was raised along with my two sisters in a middle class community in Ghana, the western part of Africa, by my grandmother. My mother, who worked as a clothes trader and father, who worked as a country planner within the government, moved from the country to the city, as there were more career opportunities there. Living in Ghana was interesting, as we lived in a community-like environment and the interaction with other families made life full of fun, however, I later joined my parents and moved to the city for boarding school.
Once I completed high school, I went on to study a Diploma in Hotel Catering and Institutional Management and a one-year certificate in Education, which gave me the opportunity to work as a domestic bursar and teacher in high school. I then migrated to Australia in 2008 at the age of 27 and went on to study a Bachelor of Nursing in 2009, completing this degree in 2012. I am now currently undertaking a Master's in Gerontology at Western Sydney University, due to finish next year.
What attracted you to a career in aged care and gerontology?
My passion for the elderly was nurtured through my grandmother when I was young back home in Ghana, where there is no aged care system. We all had to care for the elderly ourselves in the family home for the remainder of their life, and from there my innate desire to help people in times of need developed. I wanted to find a meaningful career where my skills and desire to assist and care for the elderly would be valued and wanted to be able to give back the care given to me by my grandmother.
Working in residential aged care and witnessing the issues that are developing with the elderly and frail inspired me to work towards a deeper understanding of gerontology and develop ways to serve my residents in more effective, kind and intelligent ways. On completion of my Master's in Gerontology, I am aiming to ensure delivery of the best care to our elderly in our homes locale. I believe the mix of gerontology and residential aged care work hand-in-hand to deliver innovation at the imperative care delivery level that you find in the residential aged care environment. Whatever I can do to produce top quality aged care, I will do.
How has the experience of growing up in West Africa and then moving to Australia to work and study shaped your outlook on the world and your career?
Growing up in West Africa has shaped me to accept individuals irrespective of their background, race or religion. This made it easier for me to settle in Australia after migrating.
Why is aged care important to you?
The importance of aged care began with my experience living in Ghana and witnessing the lack of aged care support there by the Government. It is incredibly rewarding to feel that my input, no matter how small, has an effect on the lives of those I care for.
What skills did you learn at WSU that you are now putting into practice in the field?
Studying a Bachelor of Nursing at Western Sydney University developed my attitude and knowledge in delivering contemporary nursing practice and equipped me with invaluable skills in people-centered nursing care, which I currently use in my profession. This, along with the practical experience and work placement, prepared me to confidently hit the ground running as a registered nurse.
How has Hall & Prior fostered your career?
Hall & Prior have been a great organisation in terms of recognising my enthusiasm for developing my career. Progressing my job role in line with my experience and education has been such a personal highlight for me. This belief in me as a professional continues to inspire me to offer best practice ideas and genuine care to our residents.
What changes would you like to see introduced to aged care?
As a long time front line worker in the aged care industry, I am really impressed at how positive the changes to the industry are translating directly to our residents health and wellbeing. If there was something I would like to see more of, it is probably encouragement or incentive for aged care industry staff to continually better themselves and their skills through continuing education. This is a specialist field of nursing and offers a great long term and rewarding career.
What are your three favourite films?
I am not that interested in television or movies unless it involves my nieces and nephew, Davida, Amy-Rose and Nathan. The last movie we all watched together was Moana, which we all enjoyed.
What’s the best holiday you’ve been on?
The best holiday I have been on would have to be travelling back home to Ghana to visit the rest of my family.
What’s your favourite food and drink?
I love fish and chips and my favourite drink is, without a doubt, coffee.
What’s your ultimate Sunday Funday activity?
An enjoyable Sunday for me is attending church, which I do almost every week, where I sing in the choir and lead the group in a bible studies discussion.
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