Shelagh Turner (née Mannion) is a registered nurse and midwife. She was formerly a nun of the Order of Raymond Nonnatus, known as Sister Bernadette. She is portrayed by Laura Main.
She served as a midwife until she contracted tuberculosis in Series Two. During her convalescence, she decided to leave the religious life. She continues to be close to the sisters of the order. She married the widower Dr. Patrick Turner and became step-mother to Timothy. She worked as Dr. Turner's secretary for awhile. She later realised that she missed nursing and midwifery. She seems to have now amalgamated the two roles somewhat.
Shelagh was born in 1924. Very little is known about her background prior to the start of the series except in the last episode of Series Two where Sister Evangelina mentions that she entered the Order on July 1st, 1948, and Sister Julienne mentions she came straight from the nurses home at the London. Sister Evangelina also implies that she might have chosen "Bernadette" as her religious name because of the film The Song of Bernadette.
Sister Bernadette does not develop much as a character during Series One, although in one episode, she does express her hidden desire to be free by looking in the mirror, removing her veil, letting her hair down, and taking off her glasses.
During the course of Series Two, Sister Bernadette begins to have doubts about whether the convent is her true calling. A lot of her scenes are between her and Dr. Patrick Turner, and she struggles with her growing romantic feelings for him. Sensing Sister Bernadette's doubts and worries of her position with the Order, Sister Julienne frequently councils and consoles her, never once suggesting she is going through a phase that will wane with time.
When, during a tuberculosis epidemic, a young girl refuses to have an X-Ray in the mobile screening unit, Sister Bernadette has one herself to show the girl there is nothing to it. Unfortunately, Sister Bernadette's scan reveals she has tuberculosis and she is confined to a sanatorium. She eventually makes a full recovery, and decides to leave the Order, reverting to her birth name, Shelagh, and becoming engaged to Patrick. Sister Julienne is heartbroken to see her leave, but lets her go without resentment. For some time afterwards, Shelagh goes to great lengths to avoid the Sisters, wondering what they would make of her for leaving them, but tragedy strikes when Timothy is struck down by polio and hospitalised, forcing the postponement of the wedding. Feeling helpless, Shelagh goes to the Sisters and is comforted by Sister Julienne who assures her that if her marriage is meant to take place, it will. Timothy pulls through his illness, but polio has damaged his legs and he had to wear braces. Timothy wore the braces for several months, but soon he was strong enough to walk without them. In time, he starts to call Shelagh "mum".
In Series Three, Shelagh and Patrick attempt to have a baby, but Shelagh is left devastated to discover she cannot have children due to damage cause to her fallopian tubes as a result of tuberculosis. Instead, they plan to adopt a baby, but their plans hit a snag when the adoption agency run a background check on Patrick and discover he spent time in a military mental institution after serving in the Second World War. This causes some problems between the couple, as Patrick had never told Shelagh this. Happily, they are later approved for adoption and become parents to a baby girl, who they named Angela.
Despite leaving the religious life, Shelagh still remains close to the Sisters. Shelagh temporarily takes over running Nonnatus House after Sister Julienne collapses due to exhaustion and, at Sister Julienne's instruction, engages a new permanent midwife who turns out to be Patsy, who replaced Jenny who was away on compassionate leave at the time to grieve for her boyfriend Alec.
In Series Four, Shelagh first becomes a medical secretary in Dr. Turner's surgery and at the clinic. She later resumes duty as a nurse after Patrick falls ill and the number of patients becomes too high. She also calls on her past experience as a midwife when Sister Monica Joan brings an expectant mother who is in labour to the surgery and delivers a baby girl.
In Series Five, Shelagh and Patrick are baffled when a series of babies are born with severe deformities. After a stressful working period, they take Timothy and Angela on holiday, leaving Patrick's patients in the care of a locum. Unfortunately, the locum is careless in his treatment and gives bad advice to a mother over the phone about how to help her daughter who is in labour, ultimately putting the girl's life in danger, and forcing the Turners to rush back so Patrick can clean up the mess.
In the Series Five finalé, Shelagh takes a call from Sister Julienne with the devastating news about the death of Sister Evangelina, but there is more bad news to come as the Turners learn that the drug Distival has been withdrawn after a link is established between one of the ingredients, Thalidomide, and the numerous babies being born deformed. Patrick, who has prescribed the drug to dozens of women, is left to grapple with his own guilt while trying to track down the patients he'd prescribed the drug to.
In the 2016 Christmas Special, Patrick and Shelagh accompany a party from Nonnatus House to South Africa to rescue a struggling mission hospital from closure. Patrick is still guilt-ridden over the Thalidomide scandal, and is even more despondent when a boy named Abel brings his polio-stricken brother Matthias to be vaccinated against the disease, and Patrick has to tell Abel the vaccine won't help Matthias since he's already had the disease. Then, when the only doctor at the mission hospital, Dr. Myra Fitzsimmons, falls ill and convinces herself she has liver cancer, she won't allow Patrick to examine her, but Shelagh manages to persuade her. Shelagh also rings Nonnatus House and asks Sister Monica Joan to go to their flat and look in one of the cupboards for her. At the end of the episode, Shelagh and Patrick give Matthias Timothy's old leg braces to help him walk.
At the end of the first episode of Series Six, despite previously being told she couldn't have children, Shelagh reveals she is pregnant. However, later in the series she started bleeding and is admitted to the hospital, terrified she might miscarry. However, is relieved when she and Patrick listen both to the baby's heartbeat and it is a strong one. In the final episode of Series Six, Shelagh picks Sister Julienne to be her midwife and she gives birth to a baby boy.
It was revealed in an interview that her son is called Edward Patrick Turner, known as Teddy.