Losing mum inspired nurse to improve end of life care

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A DEVOTED nurse who put aside her own personal grief to provide end of life care for one of her patients has been shortlisted for a top award.

Alison Williams, who is the head of unit at Awel y Mor Care Centre in Swansea which supports young physically disabled people with acquired head injuries, has been named as a shortlisted finalist at the prestigious Wales Care Awards.

The 63-year-old, who has been a qualified nurse for over 40 years, has been hailed for always putting others first and this was no more evident than when she managed the end of life care for a patient, as well as supporting their family, at the same time her mother passed away.

Alison, who lives in Three Crosses, Swansea, even used the experience of her own personal grief to put in place a better system at the home for end of life and palliative care.

This dedication to her role has resulted in the mother-of-three being in the running for the Independent Sector Nurse of the Year Award, sponsored by Ontex UK, after being nominated by Awel y Mor deputy manager Rachael Walters.

The awards are organised by Care Forum Wales and this year’s ceremony, which will be hosted by tenor and radio presenter Wynne Evans, better known as Gio Compario from the Go Compare TV ads, takes at City Hall in Cardiff on Friday, October 18.
Alison, who is originally from Devon but moved to South Wales to start her nursing career, said: “I’m a bit overwhelmed about the nomination. It’s very humbling and nice to have that recognition.

“I didn’t come into this to receive gratification. For me, helping the patients and their families is the most important thing.”
Reflecting on the period in which she lost her mum while providing end of life care for one of her patients, Alison said: “It was a real test that I had to get through.

“I’ve always had a good level head on my shoulders about people who go through end of life. It’s a very, very unique time to be able to use good nursing.

“But because I’d gone through my own grief at the same time I decided it would be something I would reflect on afterwards to put together a better system for end of life and palliative care.

“I put some guidelines together working with the palliative team, hospital and surgeries. We offer the best support someone could have. It’s a really nice system.

“We now have all the equipment we need to hand. Staff have a good empathy and understanding and as part of the system can access help from other professionals.

“That’s what came out of that difficult period and we’re using it really well.”

Another example of Alison going the extra mile to put her patients first is when she took a lady to both her sons’ weddings.

She explained: “I will drop everything. It’s something I do quite often, I will always go above and beyond.

“This particular lady had twin sons who have both got married over the last couple of years. She has a spinal injury and when we stayed overnight for one of the weddings we needed to take all her equipment.

“You do it because you care about them. When you stay over you also need a team of staff. To me it’s part of the job.”

A big part of Alison’s nursing style is centred around holistic care, an approach she believes is hugely beneficial to the patient.

She said: “I always look at people holistically because everyone is so very different with their own individual personalities. I don’t want it to be too institutionalised.

“We have quite a few clients who are in a vegetative state or minimally aware so you need to use those skills to work out what may be going wrong.

“Are they emotionally unsettled or is it something physical? By looking at them holistically it gives you the best idea at how to look after them and clinically you make good decisions.”

On nominating Alison, deputy manager Rachael Walters said: “Alison is a dedicated and devoted nurse who always inspires to provide her patients with the upmost dignity and respect.

“Not only does she strive to provide this but she also drives and empowers her team to do the same and leads from the front.

“Alison places her staff and patients above herself at all times. Alison has a keen interest in holistic care and implements this into her daily care of nursing including reiki, reflexology and crystal work.

“Alison empowers her residents in their everyday lives to be in control of their care and promote healthy wellbeing.

“Alison has a keen interest in palliative care and nominated herself to undergo training and be the lead on palliative care on her unit.

“Alison set up palliative care packs and documentation key in delivering this service effectively, and has cascaded her knowledge down into her nursing team.”

She added: “Alison always puts others first and one specific example is we had a difficult event within the home in managing a patient and their family who was end of life and subsequently passed away.

“Alison took the lead in management of this case due to its complexities and this was whilst Alison herself had lost her mother but you would not have been able to tell.

“She managed the situation with skill, empathy and dignity despite her going through an extremely difficult time herself.

“Alison is an advocate for person centred care and takes this very seriously. She ensures that she assess and makes decisions based on the whole person supporting their past wishes and feelings.

“Alison nominated herself to escort a complex patient to her son’s wedding as she knew this meant so much to that person which resulted in Alison again putting the patient first and spending time away from her family caring for others.

“If I ever got unwell I would want and trust Alison to look after me.”

Mario Kreft MBE, the Chair of Care Forum Wales, said the Wales Care Awards had gone from strength to strength.

He said: “The event is now firmly established as one of the highlights in the Welsh social care calendar.

“The aim is to recognise the unstinting and often remarkable dedication of our unsung heroes and heroines across Wales.

“The care sector is full of wonderful people because it’s not just a job it’s a vocation – these are the people who really do have the X Factor.

“If you don’t recognise the people who do the caring you will never provide the standards that people need and never recognise the value of the people who need the care in society.

“We need to do all we can to raise the profile of the care sector workforce – they deserve to be lauded and applauded.

“It is a pleasure to honour the contribution of all the finalists. Each and every one of them should be very proud of their achievement.”

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