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Black Women’s Narratives of NHS Work-Based Learning: An Ethnodrama

The Difference between Rhetoric and Lived Experience

Peggy Warren

This is an eight-scene drama portraying black women reliving their journey through higher education and work-based learning. Black women’s voices are the focus, reflecting on the complexities and dynamics of institutional power, professional exploitation, silencing, subordination and non-transformative education. A black feminist standpoint theoretical approach with an autoethnographic presentation invites the reader into the camaraderie, emotions, tears and laughter of a cohort of mature black healthcare workers engaging in a foundation degree with a promise of promotion. The author captures the voices of the women, weaves in her own account and sets the stories in fictional locations. Using cultural sayings, black philosophy and black music in a creative way, this work offers a platform from which to start discussions on black women’s labour in the NHS.

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When talking about their lives, people lie sometimes, forget a lot, exaggerate, become confused and get things wrong. Yet, they are revealing truths. These truths don’t reveal the past ‘as it actually was’ spiriting to a standard of objectivity. They give us instead the truths of our experiences. Unlike the reassuring truth of scientific ideal, the truths of personal narrative are neither open to proof or self-evident.

— Personal Narratives Group (1989: 261)

Since 2010, the National Health Service (NHS) has set out new models of care and care strategies. Amongst them was the introduction of the Assistant Practitioner (AP), a new ancillary role that a qualified nurse could delegate clinical work to. This book examines and centralises the experiences of ten Black British and Black Caribbean women’s experiences of the foundation degree (fd) programme that promised to lead to the AP role and its impact on their personal and professional identities. It (re)tells, (re)captures and (re)presents their accounts of higher education. Black Feminist Methodological Stance is put to work to centre and privilege Black women who transitioned through the research process unearthing, examining and unapologetically speaking their ‘truths’.

The analysis is intentionally theoretically provocative and uses performative autoethnograpy to present the voices of the women through characters in fictional settings. The characters use the works of predominantly Black philosophers to critically reflect on their experiences of education. Their exposures to philosophies leads them to Black feminist epistemologies. This book...

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