Cheryl Etches had previously worked as a chief nurse at the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, before retiring in 2019.
But she responded to a call for former nurses to return to the profession to lead the fight against Covid-19. She joined 400 nursing colleagues across the Midlands who returned to assist colleagues in the fight against coronavirus.
Cheryl, who started her nursing career at Nottingham's Queen Medical Centre more than 42 years ago in 1979, said: "I have always wanted to be a nurse. I remember being asked at my first job interview why I wanted to be a nurse and I said I wanted to help look after people when they’re poorly.
"That instinct to care for people and nurse them back to health never leaves you.
“Then once the pandemic struck, I simply couldn’t stand back, I knew I wanted to return to nursing and support my colleagues. Nursing is my calling, it’s what I do.”
Cheryl returned to her former workplace at the start of the first wave of the pandemic in March last year, to support infection prevention control at Wolverhampton's New Cross Hospital.
She said: “One of my main duties when I returned was making sure my frontline colleagues had sufficient personal protective equipment supplies (PPE) to enable them to care for Covid-19 patients on the intensive care units.
"I worked with the infection prevention team to ensure frontline staff had the right guidance on ‘donning and doffing’ of their PPE which is the process of how they put on and dispose of their PPE equipment safely to prevent infections spreading.
“Our team was also responsible for keeping the communal spaces safe in both clinical and non-clinical areas."
Cheryl said the public's support for those working on the frontline during the pandemic has been overwhelming.
"The generosity that we have been shown by the community has been tremendous," she said.
“People have really supported the NHS in many ways, from providing donations to our frontline staff, to a local hotel providing free accommodation and food for our staff living away from their families whilst they worked on the Covid-19 wards.
"People have been so generous and it’s been an incredible morale boost for all of our frontline staff.”
Cheryl is one of the 400 nurses from the Midlands region who has responded to the NHS’s call to action and join other hardworking staff to support the fight against Covid-19 and bolster nursing capacity within the region’s hospitals.
Siobhan Heafield, the regional chief nurse for NHS England and NHS Improvement in the Midlands, who has herself deferred her own retirement to continue to help lead the region’s response to the pandemic, added: “We have had an incredible response from nurses in our region who have answered the call to come back into the profession, from retirement or from taking time out to raise a family at such a critical time to support the NHS and the national effort against coronavirus.
“Sustaining our nursing workforce to ensure we can continue to care for patients is a priority through the NHS and I am incredibly grateful to our nursing colleagues, like Cheryl, who have responded to our call to action and are making a difference to patients’ lives”.
The NHS is running the ‘We are the NHS’ campaign to recruit more nurses, allied health professionals and healthcare support workers into the NHS. Anyone who has been inspired to explore a career in the NHS during the pandemic can search ‘NHS Careers’ online or visit www.healthcareers.nhs.uk.