'My nursing degree makes me feel valued': Sarah Shakil

Third-year BSc Adult Nursing student Sarah always knew she would work in healthcare. After studying health-related subjects and then getting experience working in a hospital as a Healthcare Assistant, Sarah is no stranger to the environment. Earlier this year Sarah, agreed to be deployed to the hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic. Find out what it’s like to work on the wards and discover more about studying nursing at BCU.

Why did you choose BCU?

I am currently in my final year of study, undertaking the BSc Adult Nursing programme (01/18 cohort). I chose to study at Birmingham City University as my previous work colleagues did their nurse training at the institution and spoke very highly about their experiences.

In light of the COVID-19 outbreak and 2020 being the year of the nurse and midwife, this degree makes me feel humbled to be a part of such a well-respected workforce at such a challenging time.

Did you always know you wanted to study Nursing?

I always knew that I would end up in healthcare as I pursued health related subjects such as GNVQ Health and Social Care, NVQ Levels 2 and 3, and the Access to Health course. I also worked as a community care support worker and hospital healthcare assistant on an acute elderly care unit for 10 years, which gave me the perfect foundation to pursue my dream role as an adult nurse.

What has this course taught you about a career in Nursing that you didn’t know previously?

Nursing is not just a job, it’s a way of life, and you are there to not only do what you enjoy but to advocate and be the voice of the vulnerable.

What have your placements been like?

Throughout the course, I undertook four short placements and an extended six-month placement during the COVID-19 outbreak. I have worked in areas such as stroke, community/district nursing and the acute medical unit based at Good Hope Hospital and Birmingham Community Healthcare.

The six-month placement took me back to where my nursing story began, on the elderly care ward at Heartlands Hospital where I previously worked as a Healthcare Assistant. I enjoyed each and every experience and I met a lot of wonderful staff and patients along the way.

In March 2020, I was deployed on an extended placement during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. I must admit at first I felt quite worried, a lot of things were going through my mind. Will I catch it? Will my family catch it? What will happen to my degree? Will I finish on time?

A lot changed almost overnight with severe disruption across all areas of life, schools closed, lockdown begun and healthcare at the forefront of the headlines.  The University responded by providing online teaching for the rest of our modules and telephone pastoral support when I was out on deployment. I was very relieved as it meant I wasn’t disadvantaged on the academic side and I was given extra time and including coursework extensions, extra tutorials and reduced word-counts. I had a lot of support and pressure taken off and I feel I was still able to offer my best.

What support has BCU provided you during your degree so far?

The University offers a great deal of support to its students I have accessed the Academic Development Department (ADD) where I was able to book a one to one tutorials, gaining support from tutors to discuss academic work and ways to improve.

Nursing is not just a job, it’s a way of life, and you are there to not only do what you enjoy but to advocate and be the voice of the vulnerable.

What are some of your favourite things about the course?

Since starting the course three years ago, I have grown in confidence, improved my communication skills and built on other transferable skills such as leadership, team working and problem solving, all of which I have been able to apply in the classroom and out in clinical practice.

I am extremely proud of my achievements at BCU, including my extracurricular activities. I have completed my bronze, silver and gold awards as part of Graduate+. Graduate+ is an extracurricular scheme that works alongside your degree. It enables students to show future employers their eagerness to learn while displaying many transferable skills. I am now working towards my platinum award and have really enjoyed completing the activities.

What are your plans after graduation?

After I graduate, I plan to pursue a career in community nursing and undertake an MSc to progress onto district nursing. I would also love to specialise in either pain management, end of life care or dementia out in the community, as these are my areas of interest. 

What advice would you give to anyone thinking about joining the course?

I would say, if nursing is something you really want to do, go for it! It’s a very challenging and robust course but you will reap rewards in terms of confidence and knowledge building. I have learnt so much over the last three years.

Take every opportunity because it will help you to grow. Don’t let any failures sway you, and don’t forget that help is there should you need it.

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