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A clinical support worker has been awarded the first nurse training scholarship created in memory of staff nurse Areema Nasreen, who died a year ago with Covid-19.
Sheila Kerai, who works on the acute medical unit (AMU) at Walsall Manor Hospital, was a close colleague of Ms Nasreen and promised to “make her proud”.
Ms Nasreen, aged 36 and a mother of three, had been among the first nurses in England to die after testing positive with Covid-19 when the pandemic began.
The Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust established a scholarship in Ms Nasreen’s name to financially support a member of staff to progress in their career.
It is partly funded by the Well Wishers charity and was developed by the trust after talking to staff about the most fitting way to remember Ms Nasreen.
Ms Kerai, 47, who worked alongside Ms Nasreen in the AMU, is the first to be awarded the scholarship and will use it to start as a trainee nursing associate before taking up a nurse degree programme.
“We were like chalk and cheese in that I am quite a boisterous person and Areema was quieter and more reserved, but we clicked so well and rubbed off on each other,” said Ms Kerai.
She described Ms Nasreen as a nurse who “went above and beyond for our patients”, especially those without family with them.
“It didn’t matter how busy she was she always found time for them and would try and cheer them up,” said Ms Kerai.
“Thanks to this scholarship in Areema’s memory it’s my time now and I promise I’ll make her proud”
“She was just such a caring and compassionate person and the sort of nurse that everyone should model themselves on.”
The pair had “both dreamed of becoming nurses”, noted Ms Kerai.
They had encouraged each other to start their nursing journeys, but the timing had not been right then for Ms Kerai to start a training programme.
“I was a single mum with three children and they needed me, particularly my youngest,” she noted.
“But thanks to this scholarship in Areema’s memory it’s my time now and I promise I’ll make her proud.”
She added: “Every time I start my shift on AMU, I greet Areema by talking to the plaque we have put on the wall in her memory, and I like to think she’s looking down on me, willing me on.”
Ms Kerai will use the scholarship to start as a trainee nursing associate in September and after two years will be eligible to step onto year two of a nurse degree programme.
“The trust has been really flexible and supportive to make the scholarship work in the best way for me and I am really grateful for this opportunity,” said Ms Kerai.
“I will still get my BSc in nursing, but it will take me four years to complete instead of three and my colleagues say they’ll support me all the way which is great.
“And my children, who are now 28, 27 and 15 are right behind me encouraging me.”
Ms Nasreen’s sister, Kazeema Afzal, was part of the judging panel for the first scholarship recipient and it had been a unanimous decision to select Ms Kerai.
“We are really pleased for Sheila, who worked closely with my sister, and know she will make a great nurse at the end of it all, just like Areema”
Ms Afzal told how the family could take “some comfort” through the new scholarship and described it as the “best way to show how much she meant to us all”.
“This year has been terrible for our family and the pain never goes away – it actually gets worse for us,” she said.
“Losing Areema has been felt by our community too as she was such a positive, wonderful person.”
She added: “But we have taken some comfort from her memory and everything she stood for living on through this scholarship.
“It is just the best way to show how much she meant to us all. We are really pleased for Sheila, who worked closely with my sister, and know she will make a great nurse at the end of it all, just like Areema.”
Nursing Times has set up a memorial page to honour nursing staff who have lost their lives during the coronavirus pandemic.