A caring Cardiff woman has had her 30 years’ work in the health and care sector recognised with a prestigious award.

Andrea O’Loughlin qualified as a nurse three decades ago and although she now holds a managerial position in the adult social care sector, she has also retained her registration as a nurse, which she passionately believes helps provide quality care to unlock the potential of the people she supports.

She is so highly respected by her colleagues that she was nominated and shortlisted for one of this year’s Wales Care Awards – dubbed the Oscars of social care.

At a ceremony in City Hall, Cardiff, she received a bronze award in the category for Leadership and Management in residential care services, sponsored by Christie and Co.

The awards are organised by Care Forum Wales to recognise outstanding work in the care sector.

Compere for the evening, which was sponsored by Ontex UK, was popular tenor and radio presenter Wynne Evans, better known as Gio Compario in the Go Compare TV ads.

Andrea, 54, who lives in Pontprennau, has worked in health and social care for most of her working life, joining Integra Community Living Options, part of National Care Group, in 2011.

She has since progressed through numerous positions and is currently National Care Group’s regional operations manager for South Wales with responsibility for the nine homes across the region and is also Integra’s designated Responsible Individual.

Retaining her nursing pin, Andrea is also part of the clinical team that provides ongoing advice to Integra’s services via an on-call system and carries out clinical reviews for the people supported.

According to Integra’s team leader Justine, Harris, who nominated her,  Andrea led on Integra’s integration into National Care Group seamlessly in 2019 whilst maintaining consistent leadership and guidance for the organisation’s managers and support workers.

“She is an exceptional senior leader who is always approachable, with an open-door policy, and embraces any suggestions or changes to improve our services” said Justine.

Despite her responsibilities, she is often found on the ‘shop floor’, using her experience to help with specific problems.

“We learn from her every day” Justine added.

Andrea is determined to keep her nursing registration.

“My passion was to be a nurse and there’s no doubt in my mind that it is an asset in the social care field,” she said.

She has a daughter of 22 and a son of 16, and in her spare time is a keen theatre-goer.

“I love all kinds of stage shows, from musicals to dramas,” she said.

Mario Kreft, chairman of Care Forum Wales, said the ceremony was all the more poignant because of the Covid pandemic and what front line staff had endured.

He said: “I would like to pay a heartfelt tribute to all the wonderful people who work in social care after the rose magnificently and courageously to meet the unprecedented challenges they have faced over the past couple of years.

“We have always recognised their true value and hopefully now the rest of Wales is also aware of how lucky we are as a nation to  have them providing care and safeguarding our most vulnerable people.

“Our finalists are the best of the best and are here representing the whole social care workforce who all deserve a big pat on the back.

“There are only winners here tonight so it is only fitting that the finalists will receive a gold, silver or bronze Wales Care Award.

“I trust that they will continue to inspire those around them as role models and encourage others to aspire to even greater heights and in the months and years to come.

“In the words of the powerful song, Heroes of our Heart, written by the acclaimed poet Mererid Hopwood and sung by Sir Bryn Terfel, let the Diolch last forever.

”We take our hats off to them.”