A mother of three has reflected on her first few months into a scholarship in memory of Walsall Staff Nurse Areema Nasreen and admits ‘it’s a godsend and I’m honoured to have such a fantastic opportunity’.
It is exactly one year ago today since Sheila Kerai was interviewed to be the first recipient of the scholarship, which was decided upon as a fitting tribute to Areema following discussions with her sister Kazeema Afzal.
It was seen as a way of financially helping someone who needed extra support to achieve their healthcare goals and Walsall Healthcare’s Professional Development Unit, HR and Well Wishers charity worked together to establish it.
Areema, who died after contracting COVID-19 last April, started as a domestic on the Acute Medical Unit (AMU) before becoming a Clinical Support Worker (CSW) prior to training as a Staff Nurse at Walsall Manor Hospital.
CSW Sheila, a former colleague of mother of three Areema, started as a Trainee Nursing Associate in September.
She will be eligible to step on to year two of the BSc nursing degree programme once her two-year training programme has finished.
Having completed her NVQ levels 2 and 3, she hasn’t looked back and by the time she turns 50, she will have qualified as a Nursing Associate.
The 47-year-old has spent the rest of this year working 19 and a half hours a week on external placement in the community with one day a week paid-for study leave, combining it all with her current role on AMU at the Manor.
“It’s going really well – it’s hard work but I’m really enjoying it and have made lots of new friends,” she said. “It’s a fantastic opportunity that I’m really grateful for – it’s wonderful.
“I’m enjoying the opportunity to combine study and placement work in the community and it’s great to meet other people.
“The work involves holistic care, so going into patients’ homes bridging that gap so they get person-centred care rather than having to go into hospital.
“A lot of the patients are more or less housebound. When you care for them you’re doing a job but also engaging with them because you might be the first person they speak to that day.
“I’ve realised what a difference community nurses make to the lives of our patients ensuring they’re treated at home.”
Based at the Walsall campus of the University of Wolverhampton, Sheila is also enjoying student life, though admits it was challenging stepping back into the classroom after a three-decade absence.
“I had to buy a diary to schedule everything in!” she said. “There are quite a few assignments and it’s hard work, so it’s a challenge to keep on top of but a good one.
“There are about 50 or 60 in the group from different areas such as Stoke and Derby, as well as Wolverhampton and Walsall, with people ranging from their early 20s to their 50s, so it’s a really good mix.
“There’s lots of group work and I’m in WhatsApp groups with them so there’s plenty of support.
“The good thing is we’re the first year post Covid-19 to be doing lectures face to face rather than online, so it’s lovely to go in and meet people.”
Sheila has been supported by mentors and her AMU colleagues have also been hugely supportive.
“From helping me out with clinical aspects to giving me their email addresses, the support from the registered nurses and sisters has been amazing,” she said. “Two in particular I’d like to mention are Tasmin Akhtar and Sanecka Weronika.”
She recently completed a three-week stint at Compton Care in Wolverhampton before a week with Community Nurses in the South Locality.
With so many new experiences, Sheila is undecided at the moment where she will specialise when she graduates.
“Nursing is so varied and I’m experiencing so many different areas with all the placements that it’s really opened my eyes to the routes you can go and I couldn’t pinpoint one yet,” she added.
The scholarship has allowed Sheila – a mum of a daughter 28, sons aged 27 and 16 and two grandchildren – to pursue a dream she thought she’d never get to fulfil.
“It’s been a godsend and I’m honoured to have this opportunity,” she said. “I don’t think I’d have been able to have a nursing career because it’s hard as a single mum to make ends meet.
“But now my children have grown up, my position has changed and the funding from the scholarship has allowed me to concentrate on my nursing.”