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'It takes a certain kind of person to work with the older people'

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Despite being crowned Nursing Times’ most inspirational nurse leader award in 2015 and winning the elderly care award in 2013, Wendy Mashlan very nearly missed out on being a nurse altogether.

Wendy edit

Source: ABMU Health Board

“I didn’t have aspirations to become a nurse when I was younger,” she says. “But my mother became ill and I was incredibly inspired by the nurses on her ward.”

Ms. Mashlan went on to qualify in 1994 and by 2000 she was a ward manager. When the role of nurse practitioner was created in 2002 a colleague encouraged her to apply and today she leads a team of 14 at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Bridgend, part of the Abertawe Bro Morgannwyg University Health Board (ABMU).

Her work is primarily focused on elderly care, a field of nursing she believes is “often seen as negative, but it is actually one of the most challenging areas.”

Wendy explains that her patients often have multifaceted needs. “It takes a certain kind of person to work with the elderly,” she says. “ But I enjoy the challenge of dealing with many different needs, helping the patient cope and supporting the people caring for them.”

In addition to her clinical management role, Ms. Mashlan is also involved in research and teaching in the hospital and at university. She has been involved in developing a number of national policies including portfolio guidelines for the National Leadership and Innovation Agency, and RCN Safeguarding for Adults. Recent innovations have included an ANP-led elderly care ward referral system.

The Inspirational Nursing Leaders Award is awarded yearly to professionals who are selected for the impact of their work on nursing policy, practice or care; their influence on and understanding of how health and social care fit together; the sustainability of their achievement and the extent to which they act as role models for others. Many are nominated by Nursing Times readers and the final list is compiled by a panel of expert judges.

Wendy says of her two awards, “they raise the profile of what we do” but declares “one would have been enough!” She was awarded them for her help in running a specialist assessment service for older people arriving at the Bridgend hospital’s emergency department and for her current work as Lead Advance Nurse Practitioner. More recently Wendy has helped develop schemes such as the Frail Older Persons Assessment Tool (FOPAT).

This was developed following the publication of the Andrew Report: “Trusted to Care” in 2014 that identified poor documentation of the care of elderly patients among other issues at ABMU. It is designed to cut through unnecessary documentation and concentrate instead on the actual needs of each patient.

Other improvements on the wards at ABMU include increasing the number of baths for patients. Staff amended shift patterns to free up more time and are now able to bathe up to five patients daily. Also introduced was a hostess system, where hostesses serve food and thereby leave more time for nurses to help patients who struggle to eat unaided. Nurses and healthcare support workers are also freer to sit with patients in the day room, encouraging activities such as games and jigsaws.

Social events for patients, such as afternoon teas, and inviting live musicians to play have been organised by Wendy and other nurses at the Prince of Wales hospital; all designed to help patients feel more comfortable and at home.

Wendy is not resting on her laurels however, and still thinks more could be done to support an aging population.

“I’d like to see more services that support patients in their own home, she says. “We should be building more resources in the community and increasing community involvement.”

Ms. Mashlan is motivated by the fact that the growing needs of an aging population look to be one of the main challenges of the health service in the coming decades.

When asked how she balances her work with a PhD; on the impact of AMD in early engagement with the elderly and currently in its fifth and final year, Wendy responds “I’m just married to it now… you’ve just got to be focused.”

Once she finishes her PhD however she admits she would like to head towards a consultant nurse post, but for now, “I absolutely love my role.”

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