MUM of four, Rachel Ali-Evans, didn’t follow the traditional route into higher education. Instead, after years of hard work and perseverance, she is graduating from University of South Wales (USW) with a first-class honours degree in Adult Nursing.
Rachel embarked on this new career path by successfully completing an access course at Nash College, in Newport, then progressed on to a Foundation Degree in Community Health and Wellbeing before she applied to the nursing degree at USW.
She said: “It was two years of study even before the three-year degree. It was a lot to juggle. We have a very busy house. My eldest has moved out but I still have three at home, who are aged between 12 and 22 – plus my husband and two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Rachel had a turbulent childhood. She left school and became pregnant with her daughter aged 17.
“I hated school. My childhood was chaotic because my mum had a drinking problem, so I lived with my dad. I should have done better in school. Teachers used to tell my dad I was bright, but I just didn’t like the environment”, she said.
“I left school and worked part-time around my children. Then, it was when my mum became seriously unwell with liver cirrhosis and spent a lot of time in hospital, I decided I wanted to become a nurse. It took me 23 years to achieve my ambition.
“In 2017, I thought, it’s now or never. I won’t say it has been easy. There were times when it was really difficult trying to juggle assignments, work placements, running a house, and just trying to keep things as normal as I could. My daughter was extremely unwell with glandular fever for 18 months as well, so that was a tough time.”
“My family have been so supportive though.”
It was during her work placements that Rachel realised she found community nursing the most rewarding.
She said: “My first placement was on a Covid ward, which was very intense in 2020. I had other hospital placements, but I really enjoyed being out in the community more. I like the continuity of care and getting to know my patients.”
Now Rachel worked with the Central West team in Newport. She said: “Our role is to visit people, in their own homes, to take care of them. It’s so varied and interesting, but I still have lots to learn.”
After studying hard for five years, Rachel still had some imposter syndrome to overcome.
“The transition from being a student to becoming qualified was daunting. I had to take a step back and remind myself that I am newly- qualified and to be kind to myself,” she said.
“Graduation will be the final step in realising my dream. There were times when I wanted to give up, but I knew that no one could do it for me and I had to prove this to myself. Determination got me there I the end.”