We talk to Paul Pheleu, who has been a nurse for 24 years. and is currently a charge nurse at Queens Court Care Home in Wimbledon, south London
Why did you become a nurse?
My mother and father died in 1972 at Elizabeth Ross Hospital in Free State, South Africa, when I was six years old. I wanted to prevent this happening to others.
Where did you train?
I trained at Elizabeth Ross Hospital for two years to become an auxiliary nurse. I later studied for a diploma in nursing at Manapo Hospital.
Some elements of the training were difficult at first. One day they took us to a mortuary - we didn’t know that was what it was - and asked us to open the shelves. My friend had nightmares after that.
You learn to cope with it, as it’s part of the job.
What was your first job?
I worked as an outpatients auxiliary nurse. I found it really interesting and loved helping people in the local community.
What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?
My organisational skills. But I’m working on improving them.
I love my job and in five years’ time I would like to be in the same care home, continuing to care for older people
From whom have you learnt the most in your career?
There are two people. My mentor in my first job, Michael Mokoena, was an inspiration. He used to tell us that if you feel satisfied at the end of the day, it means you have done a good job. I named my first son after him.
My current manager, Shaaron Caratella, general manager of Queens Court Care Home, is great at motivating and supporting me. In 2010 she encouraged me to take a management course to help me to develop further.
What advice would you give someone starting out?
Be grateful to be a nurse - it is a rewarding profession.
What keeps you awake at night?
Nothing at the moment.
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
Helping someone in need.
What’s your proudest achievement?
Achieving the level 3 management qualification and being part of a great team.
What is likely to change nursing in the next decade?
Technology will change nursing but there are things it can’t replace. People need to have support and company.
What would you have done if you hadn’t become a nurse?
I tried teaching and policing but I didn’t like either. When I was younger in South Africa, there were hard times. I didn’t want to teach propaganda and brainwash others. I didn’t like policing because I felt like I was fighting against my brothers, who were striving for freedom for all of us.
What job would you like to be doing in five years?
I love my job and in five years’ time I would like to be in the same care home, continuing to care for older people.
What makes a good nurse?
Passion, honesty and striving to achieve the best for the people you are caring for.
If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?
To ensure that people living with dementia receive the care they deserve.
What would your ideal weekend involve?
Visiting the zoo.
If you could spend an hour in someone’s company, who would it be and why?
My last-born son because he is funny.