A former A&E nurse who left her native Romania to become a care worker in Wales has struck gold at the industry’s ‘Oscars’.
Registered nurse Andreea Schiopu, who works as deputy manager at Mill View Care Home in Ystrad, Rhondda Cynon Taff, scooped the top gong in the Nurse of the Year category at the Wales Care Awards 2016.
The prestigious national awards, run by Care Forum Wales, acknowledge the hard work and exceptional performances of those in the care sector.
Mum-of-one Andreea received her trophy at a glittering awards ceremony at City Hall in Cardiff. “It was such an overwhelming and amazing experience,” said the 30-year-old who grew up in Baia Mare, Romania, and now lives in Clydach Vale.
“Obviously we were Skyping my family back home during the event and my colleague posted the moment I won on Facebook so everyone at home was able to see it. They were absolutely thrilled as you can imagine.
“It made me very proud to be a care worker. It is a massive achievement and is bigger than anyone can imagine when you’re announced as the winner. It means so much.
“It’s the first time I’ve won anything in my life but it’s very much a team effort and the award reflects on the whole team.”
Andreea admitted her experiences on the hospital frontline in Romania had set her on a life-time journey of wanting to save and help people and colleagues have remarked how the nurse is always “the first to arrive and the last to leave”.
She regularly works beyond her shift when clients are poorly and in need of hospitalisation and says that caring for people is just in her nature.
Andreea, who has a 10-year-old daughter, Rhianna, qualified as a nurse from the Colegiul Sanitar nursing college in Baia Mare, Romania, in 2007 and was recruited in the A&E department of a local district hospital.
The work was intense and Andreea gained a lot of experience treating serious trauma injuries in a high-pressurised environment.
Her decision to seek work in the UK was driven by a desire to offer a better future for her daughter and to enhance her skills.
“Having an A&E background, you are always trying to save everybody but sometimes you can’t and in the last two years I’ve come to understand how important it is not only to have a good life but to be at peace and let go sometimes,” she said.
Her current role involves nursing up to 40 elderly residents, some of whom suffer with dementia. The nursing home is owned by the Welsh private care home group, Silvercrest Care and offers a range of specialist care including epilepsy, hearing impairment, cancer care, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s care.
“I love everything about this job. The achievement and fulfilment you feel after being able to do something to help people is amazing. I can’t imagine doing anything else,” said Andreea.
“I think I was born to do this. Ever since I was a little girl, I was quite fascinated about accidents and if something happened I had to be there to help.
“I love my job. I’m really privileged to be in this position and I feel very passionate about working as a nurse and what it means for people.”
Colleagues say Andreea’s sensitivity and intuitive approach towards end of life care has helped to comfort and reassure many families at what is a very traumatic time.
“It’s not just about dishing out tablets and signing off paper work, there’s so much more to it,” said Andreea.
“When you go home after a hard day, you sometimes shed a tear because you can’t just switch your brain off but equally there are a lot of times when you get home and have a big smile on your face. We can definitely make a difference.
“You need to have an open mind and an open heart for this job and be willing to help others but also to take a step back, take a deep breath and feel what they’re feeling to be able to really offer help.
“I like being there and offering reassurance and being able to make things better for a family. When something like this happens, it does hit people quite hard and it’s good for us to be there to absorb the effects of that and help prepare people.”
Mario Kreft MBE, 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.”