Mum-of-five celebrates graduating with adult nursing degree
After living in six different countries, and raising five children, Igbal Zein is embarking on a new chapter in her life – thanks to a nursing degree from Keele University.
Thirty years after graduating from Sudan's University of Khartoum with a degree in agricultural engineering, the 49-year-old donned her cap and gown again to collect her adult nursing qualification.
And Igbal, who lives in Stoke-on-Trent, is now working in the District Nursing Team at Midlands Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (MPFT), where she is putting her skills and life experiences to use by helping and supporting patients across Staffordshire on a daily basis.
She said: "Throughout my life, I have communicated with people from different cultures and backgrounds, and that makes me feel comfortable and at ease when I am talking to my patients."
After graduating in Sudan, Igbal carried out voluntary work linked to her degree for Save the Children and the United Nations in the country. She then moved to the Netherlands after her husband took a job there, where she became fluent in Dutch, and studied for a Master’s degree at Wageningen University & Research. After four years in the country, the coupled moved again for work, and lived in Dubai, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Igbal said: "In those countries, it was a very different culture, and I had no job, only a housewife. I’ve always been an educated person and someone who wants to learn, have their own job, and not just stay at home.
"During my academic life I had always achieved top grades, but when I was in Saudi Arabia, I could not drive a car, or go out in the street alone. My husband would go to work, my children would go to school and I would have to stay in and wait for them to come home. It was a very terrible time for me, but it is starting to get better there now."
Igbal moved to the UK in 2015, and started working as a healthcare worker in a care home in North Staffordshire. But she still felt like she had more to offer.
She said: "It was nice work but there was always a voice inside me telling me I could be doing something better, and contributing to the community more, and from there I started thinking about a nursing degree. It wasn’t an easy journey, and before I could go to university I had to go back to college in Stoke-on-Trent to study Maths and English and three other subjects, but I stuck with it and passed them.
"I applied to Keele and was successful, and started my degree in 2020. It was a fantastic experience and I really enjoyed the lessons, and the placement in the community that was part of the degree. I’m very happy that I came to Keele and it is a fantastic feeling to graduate alongside all my fellow students."
Three of Igbal's children are now studying at university, including her eldest son Babikir, aged 21, who is also at Keele, in the fourth year of his Medicine degree. And Igbal is now setting her sights on completing a Master's degree at Keele.
She said: "I am the kind of person who loves research and to read articles about new discoveries, and all those sorts of things. In my job now, I am always looking at what could be done differently to improve the service I am providing. I am always trying to keep my mind active."
Liz Lockett, MPFT's Chief Nurse and Director of Quality and Professional Leadership said: "I'd like to offer my congratulations to Igbal on her graduation and new position with our District Nursing team in Staffordshire. Nurses make a real difference every day to the lives of the patients they care for and their relatives and carers too. The wealth of life experience that Igbal brings to the role will certainly enrich the service that she offers to the communities we serve.
"Igbal's passion for research and quality improvement is commendable and as a university Trust, I am keen to encourage all our nurses to participate in research and improvement activities, as this not only enriches their knowledge and experience, but also the experience of our service users and patients.
"I wish Igbal a long and successful nursing career at MPFT."
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