Julie honoured at social care Oscars

A nurse whose skills and experience have transformed a Carmarthen care home in a matter of months has won a national award.

Just 12 months after joining the staff of Plas y Dderwen in Johnstown Julie Evans was honoured in this year’s Wales Care Awards.

The awards are organised by Care Forum Wales to highlight and reward exceptional practice in the care sector and the prize giving ceremony was held at City Hall, Cardiff. Julie received a silver award in the category for Excellence in Dementia Care which is sponsored by FISC Healthcare.

She grew up in Llanarthne, where she still lives, and trained as a nurse at Glangwili Hospital and St David’s Hospital, Cardiff.

“When I was a girl I wanted to be either a nurse or an archaeologist,” she said.

For 10 years she worked in the community with clients with complex care needs, but last year was invited by Sharon Herbert, general manager of Plas y Dderwen, to run the 26-bed dementia unit known as Memory Lane alongside the Head of Unit Andrew Whitmarsh.

“The EMI unit was going through a very difficult patch but luckily for us Julie has been able to use her skills as a Registered Mental Nurse to produce massive changes,” said Sharon, who nominated her for the award.

“She has developed her skills and knowledge in the dementia sector and at the same time shared those skills with the care staff to ensure that they have the  correct information and guidance to undertake the tasks required by promoting dignity,” she said.

“She is a very devoted individual and through her leadership has boosted morale amongst the staff,” she added.

Being a Welsh-speaker has also proved an advantage not only with the residents but with their families.

Julie, 55, who lives with her 90-year-old father, said she loved working at the home, which is part of the Barchester Healthcare group. In particular, she enjoys the positive feedback from residents, sometimes displayed through a smile or a hug.

“I never expected to be even shortlisted because I just love the work and no two days are the same,” she said.

“I don’t think I do anything extraordinary but am just doing my job and enjoy leading by example. I am very much a hands-on person.

“I am very pleased that the EMI unit is now regarded  as the best in Carmarthenshire after it had been rock-bottom, but although any award may have my name on it I feel it should go to the entire staff.”

Julie is a member of the Llandeilo branch of the St John’s Ambulance Brigade and is also a qualified reflexologist and reiki practitioner, which involves channelling positive energy into a patient through touch. She carries out both therapies at home on her days off.

She also enjoys supporting community events and activities in Llanarthne.

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.”