AN experienced nurse whose kindness and compassion for her care home residents has reduced family members to tears of joy is in the running for a national award.
Former hospital nurse Ruth Smithers, 55, has been praised for her attention to detail and commitment to maintaining the best and most up to date practices since taking the clinical lead post at Brocastle Manor Care Home in Bridgend in 2015.
Clinical manager Fiona Exelby says her passion for providing the highest standards of client care was most evident when an interaction with a female resident reduced her son to tears.
Such dedication to her work has led to Ruth being nominated for the Independent Sector Nurse of the Year Award, sponsored by Ontex Healthcare, in the 15th annual Wales Care Awards which takes place at City Hall in Cardiff on Friday, October 19.
The prestigious national awards, run by Care Forum Wales which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, has been dubbed the “Oscars” of the care industry as it acknowledges the hard work and exceptional performances of those in the sector.
Ruth Smithers, who lives in Tredegar, said: “I was very shocked when I found out I’d been nominated. I’m not very good at blowing my own trumpet!
“For me it’s not about an individual, we share everything as a team. It’s very much a team effort.
“I can’t emphasise that enough. It’s wonderful to be recognised like this but for me it’s more a reflection of the team.
“I love coming to work here – I’m so lucky to enjoy what I’m doing every day.
“It can have it’s tough moments but I like seeing my clients every day and bringing cheerfulness to the role.
“I like relaying conversations and humorous moments with the clients back to their families. That’s really lovely.
“When the clients and their families are happy that’s what’s most important.”
Ruth, who started her career as an auxiliary nurse before qualifying in 1988, has worked in numerous hospitals, including Cardiff’s University Hospital of Wales and Nevill Hall in Abergavenny.
She has been able to transfer some of the practices used in the hospitals to help improve the quality of care in Brocastle Manor.
Ruth said: “I initially came in as an agency nurse to audit the care plan and never left!
“You’re only ever as good as your team and I looked at the team and people working here and they were delightful in their approach.
“They were a great support to me and vice versa apparently. This role was emerging, everything was aligned and I thought it would be beneficial for me to take it at this stage in my career.”
She added: “I’ve introduced a framework used in hospitals for reporting an unwell client or an event with a client.
“It’s known as SBAR reporting. It’s a tool which means we have a client’s background written down and accessible to we don’t have to rummage through their file.
“It’s timely, especially if you have a sick client. You can use it on the phone with a paramedic – it makes things very simple.
“As part of the framework we report the situation, the background history of the client, carry out and assessment and then make a recommendation for a plan of action.
“On top of this we have a secondary tool known as NEWs which provides a score when recording vital signs.
“We use it for guidance and it denotes escalation to paramedics too. Doctors also use it.
“Another thing we’ve introduced is a skin tear chart I found through research on the internet.
“I’ve been nursing for a long time but wasn’t fully aware of skin integrity and what can help, particularly with the elderly.
“We now have a tool that enables us to pinpoint whether a person is at medium, high or very high risk of skin tears and what we can do to prevent them which helps with their care plan.”
In nominating Ruth, clinical manager Fiona Exelby said: “As clinical lead Ruth will always ensure that we are using the most up to date, best practice and where she feels that this could be improved she will introduce changes to support improvements.
“Ruth’s interpersonal and communication skills ensure that her team is well led and well supported. Her attention to detail ensures that care plans are person centred and up to date.
“Ruth is particularly passionate about client care and ensuring that her clients receive the best care based on best practice.
“One relative who witnessed her interaction with his mother was reduced to tears by the kindness and compassion shown towards his mother.”
Mario Kreft MBE, the Chair of Care Forum Wales, said the Wales Care Awards had gone from strength to strength.
He said: “This year’s ceremony is an even more special occasion because it marks the 15th anniversary of the Wales Care Awards and the 25th anniversary of Care Forum Wales and 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.”