A care home worker struck gold while sitting at a poolside in Cuba sipping Pina Colada.

It was 3pm and the last thing Tracey Frowen expected was frantic phone messages from colleagues at Hollies Care Home in Pontypridd.

‘Gold, gold, gold!’ they cried as they stood in for her at the Wales Care Awards ceremony at Cardiff City Hall.

Throwing on a sundress over her ‘tankini’ Tracey, 44, rushed into the hotel lobby to connect to Wifi and hear she had won the Independent Sector ‘Nurse of the Year’ award!

She had flown to Cuba the week before the ceremony with her husband John on a holiday bought for them by daughter Taryn, 23, who works for the HMRC.

She was nominated by colleagues for her compassion and dedication beyond the call of duty – but thought nothing of it and went away on the All-Inclusive break not expecting to hear a ‘dickie bird.’

Tracey, from Cilfynydd, said: “First I had a text message from our finance manager, Rhiannon Ward, saying I’d won but it still didn’t sink in so I went in the hotel where I could connect to Wifi to check What’s App and there were messages, pictures and even a film of the ceremony.

“I was bowled over. I had even forgotten about the ceremony because of the five-hour time difference and switching off while being away. We had to order some more cocktails to celebrate.”

Modestly Tracey, who has been Clinical Nurse Manager at the home since August 2015, says she is ‘nothing special’ and just does her job.

And if that means sitting up all night with a resident in their final hours, she does it.

She was honoured after demonstrating skills in all areas of general nursing and palliative care, often putting in extra hours when a resident is at the end of their life to ensure they are pain free and comfortable.

In May, her work ethic saw her promoted to manager of the Merthyr Road home where she leads a team of 58 carers and ancillary staff.

Currently there are 40 residents all over 80 and many in their 90s. Tracey says she sees them as an ‘extension’ of her own family.

She added: “One of my first ladies to pass away was Hilda Roberts, who at 107, was believed to be Wales’ oldest resident and what a character she was. Thankfully she had a peaceful passing.

“Sadly some do not. Sitting and saying words of comfort is the least we can do.”

In nominating Tracey, her predecessor as manager, Lisa Jones, paid tribute to her expertise and selfless attitude towards other members of the team.

She said: “Tracey will work at short notice when staff are sick without a grumble, even working a night shift when she has worked during the day

“She has come to the home during the early hours when a resident is at the end of their life to ensure that the resident is comfortable and that the nurse on duty is aided in the processes after death.

“Tracey will sit with the resident, comforting and caring for until they pass away. She ensures that the resident looks their best before families come to the home to pay their last respects.”

Standing in for Tracey at the ceremony were the home’s business administration manager Louise Jarvis and deputy manager Jinky Gallego. Louise said: “We were hysterical. Gold, gold, gold was all we could say and sent pictures of the award and Tracey’s name which was listed in in the programme.

“It was so well deserved. Tracey cares for our residents like her own family.”

MC for the evening was opera singer Wynne Evans, better known as Gio Compario in the Go Compare TV adverts. There were several high-profile sponsors including Ontex Healthcare and Barchester Jobs.

Nurse of the Year was sponsored by Ontex Healthcare and the award now sits in Tracey’s office at work waiting her return.

Mario Kreft, the Chair of Care Forum Wales, said the standard of entries was extremely high.

He added: “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 in the months and years to come.

“This awards ceremony is our opportunity to pay tribute and to celebrate the talent and commitment that is improving the quality of life for thousands and thousands of people throughout Wales.

“We take our hats off to them.”