Shirley’s story

With the cost of living crisis causing sharp rises in petrol and energy costs, and an unexpected car repair bill, Shirley was struggling to afford to continue nursing.

Shirley’s seen a lot of changes in nursing over the decades since she qualified in 1991. Gaining experience in acute areas like surgical and medicine, she specialised in oncology and haematology before taking the opportunity to move into community nursing.

Shirley is currently a Specialist Community Public Health Nurse and supports the health and wellbeing needs of children and young people.

“I give them a voice regarding their health,” explains Shirley “supporting them through some really troubling times. Myself and my colleagues work in people’s homes, schools and clinic settings. We go wherever the children and young people need us to be.”

Shirley remembers being inspired to become a nurse by her ‘Aunty’,

“My mum’s cousin, who was known as my Aunty, nursed for many years,” remembers Shirley “She cared for my grandfather and I remember visiting him in hospital and seeing my Aunty in action which was very inspiring. I wanted to be like her.”

Both Shirley’s grandmothers also provided inspiration, one being named Edith after nurse Edith Cavell and always proud to talk about the heroic WWI nurse to young Shirley. Her other gran often cared for anyone who was sick in the family and helped the women during child birth.

In her community nursing role, Shirley has been a specialist School Nurse for the last 18 years.

“I love the personal element of nursing, you get the chance to be a part of someone’s life and to stand up for them, especially for children and young people when their voice sometimes isn’t heard. That is incredible and priceless and a real privilege. I always get quite emotional when I think about that as I’m so passionate about nursing.”

Whilst caring for her elderly mother and father and supporting her grown up daughters through their studies, Shirley’s finances have been tight but she’s always been someone to stay on top of her financial outgoings,

“I try and keep going and shuffle money around to pay the bills,” explains Shirley “robbing Peter to pay Paul, as the saying goes. A few years ago I’d have a buffer of a few hundred pounds to help with difficult months, but I just don’t have that anymore.”

The sharp rise in the cost of living has hit Shirley and her family very hard.

“There comes a point where you realise that oh my goodness, I can’t do this anymore,” says Shirley “I had a rise in home energy costs as well as petrol costs and an unexpected repair bill for my car, absolutely vital for my job. On top of that my annual nursing registration fee was due, all in the same month! Failure to pay these costs would mean me not being able to work. I felt completely overwhelmed with it all.”

As a community nurse, Shirley is able to claim some petrol costs from her employer but the delay between having the cash to fill up the tank and getting the money paid back to her at a later date is always awkward.

“The stress became all-consuming and I wasn’t sleeping properly. Then one day I was thinking about my Gran, the one named after Edith Cavell, and I thought of Cavell Nurses’ Trust! I’d always donated to the charity but never thought of asking for help.”

Shirley applied for support from Cavell and the charity was able to relieve some of her financial pressures.

“I got the email at work that the financial support had come through from Cavell,” remembers Shirley “my colleagues were so happy for me and I’ll be making sure they all know about Cavell and the support they could get if they need it.

“It was like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders, I could pay my nursing registration fee, fill up my car and be able to get to work!”

Despite being nervous about applying for support Shirley is glad she did,

“I thought I would find it hard to ask for help but actually I found the whole process really easy and supportive. As nurses, we spend so much time caring for others, it can feel a bit alien to think of people caring for us, but we need looking after too. I’m just so thankful that Cavell is there!”

Shirley has a message for anyone thinking of fundraising or donating to Cavell to support colleagues going through a tough time,

“Do it, absolutely! If you love nurses and midwives and you value what they do, you never know when they might need a little bit of help.”

Contact Cavell Nurses’ Trust