Role model Priscilla Reynolds

“I am always going to take up the challenge, I don't want a condition to dictate my life.”
5 minuten leestijd

What is your background?

“My parents are from Ghana, but I myself grew up in Amsterdam Southeast.” Priscilla Reynolds, a vascular surgery nurse at AMC location, has a special connection to Amsterdam UMC. She was not only born here thirty years ago, but also works here. Moreover, as a patient, she is right at home here. “I have sickle cell disease, an inherited disorder in which the red blood cells take on an abnormal shape after releasing oxygen, they become sickles. As a result, they hook up in the blood vessel, so to speak, and that causes blockages, which hurt terribly. The first time I had such an attack of pain, a crisis you call it, I was 11 months old. I kept crying. My parents took me to the AMC, where I was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia. From then on, I have been under treatment here.” Sickle cell anemia is the more severe and common form of sickle cell disease, resulting in constant anemia. “Despite medication, healthy and iron-rich food and adequate sleep, I am always tired.”

Why did you choose health care?

“That has everything to do with my illness. Everyone was -and is- always so loving here, so I wanted to give something back. I first did the mbo training as a physician's assistant, but after a year of work I missed the challenge and went into nursing. In 2016, I completed a bachelor's degree in nursing at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam. Right after that, I was able to start working at Amsterdam UMC. I once started as an intern in the Emma Children's Hospital and now I work as a nurse in the vascular surgery department. I love being a nurse, I really enjoy my work. I am still happy every day that I chose this profession.”

What is it like to work at Amsterdam UMC if you have a disability?

“They are very committed here to people like me, in my experience, no one is excluded and a suitable job is sought for everyone. I myself have been very transparent in my application letter and resume about my ailments, I want to be judged on my qualities and not be given preferential treatment because of my illness. By the way, three years ago I was also diagnosed with Systemic lupus erythematosus, which makes everything even more complicated. You can't see anything about me, but I'm always in pain, even though I pretend to be in perfect health. Yet sometimes the crise are so severe that I have to be hospitalized. So then suddenly I am the patient. Fortunately, my colleagues and supervisors are very understanding and will never judge me for it. Actually, my career choice was not very smart, because as a nurse you work irregular shifts and it is physically demanding work, while I need a lot of rest. But I always rise to the challenge, I don't want a condition to dictate my life.”

What do you do after work?

By nature I am a quiet person and with my illness that comes in handy, I mostly rest at home, to recharge. Often with a book, because I love to read. I also take walks with my boyfriend after work. Getting a breath of fresh air on the beach at IJburg, where we live. And we both love watching documentaries.

What do you notice about inclusiveness at Amsterdam UMC and where are there still opportunities?

“Especially at the beginning of my career, I received certain comments when I introduced myself to patients. Gosh', they would say, 'how well you speak Dutch', or 'I also have a cleaning lady of Surinamese descent at home'. Yes, that's quite a mouthful, because what should I do with that information? If I had asked one euro for every remark about my Dutch, I could retire now. If you are white yourself, you don't think about it, but I am very aware that I am a dark girl in a hospital that is predominantly white. Some days I see almost only white doctors and paramedics walking around, while the diversity among cleaners is much greater. That starts at training, by the way, where the bulk of the students are white. I think that's a shame, but it starts with ourselves. I would love it if more people of color chose health care. When I did college, there were 350 students, but very few of any other ethnicity. I could count us on the fingers of two hands. That, of course, worked its way into the hospital. In my department, there are about 35 nurses, seven of whom are from another origin. The rest are all Dutch. We don't meet a lot of ourselves here, especially when you are higher up the ladder. A little more recognition in the workplace would be nice, you would feel less alone. I have heard that there is someone working in OR as an operating assistant who also has sickle cell disease. Oh wow, how cool, I thought. I immediately felt a sense of pride. When I provide care to patients of Ghanaian descent, I notice their pride when they see me working. That they are being cared for by someone with the same background as them. It's not the fault of Amsterdam UMC, they really accept us. We just need to assert ourselves more and take the step. We are desperately needed.”

Do you have any questions for Priscilla or would you like to know more about diversity & inclusion within Amsterdam UMC? Then email

Text: Sophie Verschoor