There are countless stories of NHS workers’ selfless acts to help Britain’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic – and student Rickelle Mayers truly embodies them.
Mother-of-four Rickelle started studying Adult Nursing at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) just three months ago.
Now the 29-year-old is working two to three night or day shifts a week on wards at Leicester hospitals, before returning to home school her children.
Not only that but Rickelle has just volunteered to take on extra shifts at Leicester Royal Infirmary to help free up more experienced staff for the frontline fight against COVID-19.
Rickelle, 29, who lives with her partner Jerome, Javion, nine, Ariyah, eight, Zackiah, seven and Amara, two, says that even though her experience is limited she wants to do all she can to help the NHS during the pandemic, while also ensuring her children continue to achieve everything possible with their studies.
She said: “We obviously have NHS staff off work because they are having to self-isolate, and the NHS needs all hands on deck. I am obviously limited in what I can do as I only started to study nursing in January but, if I can help and free-up the experienced staff to serve patients who are seriously ill, then I will do it.”
Rickelle has been working in the General Hospital and the Glenfield Hospital under the Leicestershire Partnership Trust and is now waiting to start work with the University of Leicester Hospitals Trust for the extra weekend shifts.
During her shifts, Rickelle looks after elderly patients’ hygiene and monitors their blood pressure and respiratory rates. She is also caring for people with dementia and Parkinson’s disease who have been isolated after showing symptoms of COVID-19. The shifts also involve monitoring vulnerable patients, sometime as often as every 10 minutes.
* How students and staff at DMU are supporting the community at this time
* Advice and information on COVID-19
Rickelle says her family do worry about her and she worries herself about having to self-isolate but thinks of those who need the most help during this pandemic.
“My children are proud but I have to admit they do get a little scared about their mum,” Rickelle said.
“When the older ones hear on the news that nurses and doctors are also getting sick then they really worry. I just try my best to reassure them that I am doing what I can to help others. My partner is worried too, and he says it all the time, but he also says I inspire him. He is very proud.
“Of course, I am worried, but the people at the hospital are absolutely brilliant. We are all in this together and I tell myself I am going to be fine. If I do not do what I can as a student nurse, then that is one less person helping out in the NHS and we need everyone to do their bit.”
Rickelle’s daily routine is exhausting. When she returns from a night shift she will spend an hour with Jerome and the children to say good morning then she gets three hours sleep - “or four if I am lucky”, she says - while Jerome continues with the parenting duties. Rickelle then works on the home schooling, catches an hour’s sleep between 4pm and 5pm, and then gets ready for work.
“It is really odd but I just have a desire to help,” she says.
“Work and home schooling allows me to do that. If I do not work to teach my children, there will be a huge gap in their education. I am quite strict. They are achievers at school and I want them to continue to succeed.”
Jerome works from home and has to spend a lot of time in group meetings on the computer but puts in the hours with the children when Rickelle is on shift or sleeping.
Rickelle added: “He is waiting to hear if he is going to be furloughed (when people are temporarily laid off from work and the Government pays 80 per cent of their wages). If that happens then I can do even more hours with the NHS as he can spend more hours with the children.”
Rickelle previously worked in call centres but had always wanted to be a nurse. She decided to finally change career after she witnessed a road traffic accident.
“Myself and a friend were on hand and looked after the injured until the paramedics arrived. Afterwards I thought ‘wow, I can really do this’ and applied to study Adult Nursing at DMU.”
The friend who tended to the injured with Rickelle is also now studying to be a nurse.
Rickelle says one of the things that motivates her is the applause for NHS workers every Thursday at 8pm.
“The first time it happened I cried because a I heard a neighbour in the street shout out my name during the applause. It was very sweet.
“It is such an uplifting feeling to know the public appreciate what we are doing. People should definitely keep doing it. I think about it as inspiration when I am coming home at eight in the morning after a shift. It definitely motivates you.”
As if Rickelle is not doing enough to help others, she is also posting revision notes and quizzes on her Instagram account so she can help herself and fellow first year students revise for future exams.
“It helps us all,” she says. Follow Rickelle @mumsthestudentnurse
Posted on Wednesday 8th April 2020