A MENTAL health nurse who uprooted more than 120 miles to start a new life in north Wales where she took on a role in a Welsh-speaking nursing home despite not knowing the language has been nominated for a prestigious award.
Alison Jones and her family made the long journey from Worcester where they’d lived for eight years to set up home in Criccieth, Gwynedd, back in 2015 after her husband landed a new job.
Six months later a friend Alison made through the new school that her two daughters attend recommended that she join her in working at Plasgwyn Nursing Home, based in Criccieth and part of Cariad Care Homes.
Despite her reservations about not being able to speak Welsh, the 46-year-old was successful with her application and has been a hugely valued and important member of the team ever since – and is also well on her way to being a fluent Welsh speaker.
It’s Alison’s unwavering commitment to the welfare of the residents at the home that has now led to her being named as a shortlisted finalist at the prestigious Wales Care Awards, known as the social care Oscars.
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 place at City Hall in Cardiff on Friday, October 18.
Alison, who is originally from Hereford, is in the running for the Independent Sector Nurse of the Year Award, sponsored by Ontex UK, after being nominated by nursing home manager Jill Jones who described it as a ‘privilege’ to work with her.
Alison said: “I was absolutely floored when I found out I’d been nominated. They feel that I’m special and that is so lovely.
“I didn’t actually think I’d get the job back in 2015 because everyone speaks fluent Welsh. But they said we don’t turn nurses away!
“When I visited it was the matron at the time Sue Fryatt who won me over – she is an inspirational nurse. It’s such a lovely place to work, it’s like a big family.
“Because the owners are so dedicated it makes our job easier. I’m still learning the language – that’s a big part of my role. The more I’m learning the better my job.
“A lot of the residents are in the latter stages of their life and don’t want to or just don’t speak English at all. People are so polite with me but it’s something I want to tackle. I want to be bilingual.”
As a mental health nurse, Alison’s background is in the NHS specialising in dementia and she admits making the transition to a general nursing home was a daunting feeling.
She explained: “There was a little bit of apprehension. It’s a general nursing home providing palliative care for people who are mainly in bed.
“I was used to people walking around and who were more distressed. People here are more sedated and just need the care.
“I did wonder if I was going to like it, but it’s been lovely. It’s been a real journey for me and I’ve brushed up on a lot of skills.
“My background is in hospitals and working on assessment wards. I loved that too but you don’t build up relationships with people as they’re only there for a short time.
“It’s a privilege to look after the residents here. I’m quite dedicated and always popping in and out even when I’m not on duty.
“I feel like a real part of the community here. If there is a problem I like to go in and deal with it there and then rather than wait until I’m back in. When you’re a nurse you’re always on duty in your head.
“I do a lot of training with the staff because of my background in dementia and I will deal with people who suffer with anxiety and low mood. I also write a lot of care plans.”
A big part of Alison’s nursing style centres around speaking and listening to relatives about their needs.
She said: “I spend a lot of time with relatives. People are scared of the unknown and don’t always know what to expect.
“I always say to them that this is as much your home. When they come and visit I encourage them to stay and eat and treat it like your home.
“They just want to be there and while ideally they’d like their relatives to be able to remain at home, that unfortunately isn’t always possible.”
On nominating Alison, Plasgwyn Nursing Home Manager Jill Jones said: “It is a privilege to work with Alison, although she trained as a RMN and her experience prior to joining Plasgwyn was within the NHS and in dementia homes her transition into a general nursing home focusing on palliative end of life care has been a very smooth one.
“She is an asset to the nursing profession and has a generous character and is always willing to help in any way she can, often in her own time.
“She is tenacious and goes out of her way to assist our residents and their families in any way she can within her professional boundaries.
“She is continuously striving to help palliative residents live enjoyable fulfilled lives and make them feel as safe and comfortable as possible.”
She added: “Alison has been nominated due to her continued commitment to the individuals in our care.
“She has been responsible for developing new person centred care plans for individuals with dementia and challenging behaviour and has also developed dementia training materials and assist the Training and Development Manager in delivery of dementia training for all 126 Cariad Care Homes employees.
“She has excellent communication skills and has built up a great rapport with individuals and is highly respected by the team, our residents and their families.
“Visiting professionals know that she can be relied upon to ensure that instructions are put into action, are shared with the team and are monitored. Her knowledge is excellent, and she keeps herself totally up to date and shares her knowledge with the team.
“She was also a mentor for a new role which was created within the organisation, Nurse Support Practitioner, and gave her time freely in supporting, guiding and assisting the student with the training and in achieving their competencies.
“I can honestly say that when Alison is at work the home is in safe hands, she will deal with any challenges that arise in a prompt and professional manner.”
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.”