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Karen Roberts-Shepherd

Child Nursing - BSc (Hons)

As a mature student, Karen has had to juggle looking after four young children with the intensity of a degree in Children’s Nursing.  She always wanted to work in a caring profession, but it wasn’t until her baby son became very ill, and she witnessed the care he received, that she was inspired to pursue a nursing career. Now, she is proof that it’s never too late to achieve your dreams, and hopes to inspire her children with her success.  

“I never thought that one day I would end up at university! Other people were probably quite shocked too! I was naughty as a teenager and left school without sitting any of my GCSEs, preferring to seek employment instead.  I very quickly regretted my decision, and enrolled in my local college to get some GCSEs. Upon completion, I undertook my RSAs (secretarial qualifications) and fell into office work.

I knew I wanted to work in a caring profession, so I completed some counselling qualifications at night-school, but sadly, due to a past personal experience with abuse, it ended up triggering me and I developed PTSD as a result, and had to give up on that career choice. 

I stayed in office work for ten years, until having my first daughter at 28. I knew even before going off on maternity leave that I would never return to my job as a PA at a university. I wanted to be a stay at home mom and appreciate watching my children grow in their younger years, and then return to education later on, so I could work towards a job in a hospital setting in the future.

After having my two daughters, I returned to education in 2013. To work in healthcare, I knew I would need to obtain my maths and biology GCSEs, so I enrolled on a local adult education course.  I then completed my Health and Social Care Access course in 2014 with the intention of becoming a midwife, but took a five-year break to extend our family, and had two sons.

The turning point for me was when my youngest son became ill.  At four months old, he suffered with severe bronchiolitis and had to be intubated and transferred to Stoke Paediatric Intensive Care Unit.  It was, without a doubt, the most traumatic thing we could ever have experienced as parents and we thought we were going to lose him. There was one particular intensive care nurse who was simply amazing, and she really stood out for me.  Both her and our son’s experience inspired me enough to change my direction. I really wanted to change a negative experience into a positive experience and give something back! 

So I decided to apply for the BSc (Hons) Child Nursing and received an unconditional offer to begin in January 2019.  I was so excited that I was finally on my way!  I’ve had so much support at BCU through lectures, mental health support sessions, personal tutor sessions, and the Personal Development Department.  My placement experiences have been great. I’ve spent time on a Neonatal Cardiac Surgical ward, an Oncology Day-care Unit, a Burns ward, the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, and Acorns Children’s Hospice.  I have learnt so much in all of them and feel incredibly lucky to have experienced them.

Being a student nurse with a family has been challenging as it is difficult to study and keep up with the assessments – sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day!  It can be overwhelming, and I know I am never going to get top grades because I just don’t have the time to dedicate to it, but do you know what…. It is ok!  I have passed every assessment first time so I must be doing something right.

I’m now in my final year, and have so much to be proud of!  Firstly, the fact that I am doing my nursing degree at the age of 40 with four young children really proves that it’s never too late! I hope I can inspire my children to believe that if their mom can do this, then they can too! Secondly, I am proud that I am the first female in my family to go to university, and finally, I feel proud that I have been nominated for the Student Nursing Times ‘Most inspirational Student of the Year’ award and received a ‘pass plus’ on my intensive care placement after receiving a ‘learning from excellence’ report for teamwork.

I AM BCU means believing in yourself, trying your best to achieve your best, and being proud to succeed!"

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