A mother of three has reflected on her first year into a scholarship in memory of Walsall Staff Nurse Areema Nasreen and insists: “I know I made the right decision.”
It is more than two years since Sheila Kerai, 48, was interviewed to be the first recipient of the scholarship, which was decided upon as a fitting tribute to Areema who died in April 2020 after contracting COVID-19.
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. They also worked with Areema’s sister Kazeema Afzal.
Areema, started as a housekeeper on the Acute Medical Unit (AMU) before becoming a Clinical Support Worker (CSW) prior to training as a Staff Nurse at Walsall Manor Hospital. A plaque hangs outside AMU in her honour.
Sheila, a former colleague of mother of three Areema, started as a Trainee Nursing Associate in September 2021, combining working 19 and a half hours a week on external placement with one day a week paid-for study leave with her current role on AMU at the Manor.
She will qualify as a Nursing Associate this August and be eligible to step on to year two of the BSc nursing degree once her two-year training programme has finished.
Having completed her NVQ levels 2 and 3, she hasn’t looked back and by August, she will have qualified as a Nursing Associate. All being well, she will become a Registered General Nurse (RGN) in August 2025.
The scholarship has allowed Sheila – a mum and grandmother – to pursue a dream she thought she’d never get to fulfil.
If anything, Sheila’s enthusiasm for her career has only increased. “It’s really focused my mind and made me realise I’ve made the right decision,” she said.
“It’s fantastic – my managers (Gemma Roberts, pictured right, and Caroline Walsh, Sister, left, plus Melissa Perry, Ward Manager, not in picture) really support me. If I’ve got any queries or need something signing off, they’re here for me.
“I’m also allowed to run a lot of patient bays now overseen by a nurse, and I’m getting used to that. I can see I’ve improved and I’ve learned a lot.
“You’ve got to find a balance and I’ve managed to fit university, work and a family life in so everything works out.
“I’ve got a routine and loads of support. Every Friday is my study day so I make sure I do my assignments. There are seven students from Walsall, I’m the oldest there and I call the other students ‘my bambinos!’ We all get on so well.
“I have to thank Well Wishers and FORCE (Faculty of Research and Clinical Education) for their support too.”
Sheila says the placements have been the most enjoyable aspect of her scholarship so far, citing Intensive Care Unit (ICU) as her favourite after spending time on the Children’s Ward, Community and Health Visiting this year, with a stint on Surgical Wards to come. Last year she was on X-ray, Imaging, Oncology, and Outpatients.
“The placements have provided a broad spectrum of what goes on across the whole hospital and you can see how it all fits together,” she said. “I have an appreciation of all departments and not just my own. It’s also made me realise what I like and don’t enjoy so much.
“It’s scary when you hear the word ICU but when you go there, you find out how wonderful it is. It’s a different aspect of nursing: one-to-one care doing the obs (observations) every hour, the dialysis machine, the ventilators and the high-flow machines. It’s more specialist and I learned a lot.”
Sheila now has two years of studying ahead to complete her degree, and the scholarship covers her salary while she studies to become a RGN.
Once she qualifies, Sheila has no doubts where she wants to specialise. “I’m an AMU girl!” she said.