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Providing life experiences

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Award-winning nurse Sue Povey thinks caring should be more than just offering services

Sue Povey

Sue Povey

Sue Povey didn’t receive her nursing degree until she was 40 years old. But that late start didn’t stop her working her way up. She’s now a unit manager and recently won the title of Best Registered Nurse at the National Care Awards.

Her path to nursing began long before she even considered undertaking a nursing degree, when she volunteered at local hospitals as a teenager. She left school with no qualifications, but continued to volunteer until she began working as a carer.

Keen to advance, Ms Povey started going to night school and worked at a large hospital for people with learning disabilities, where she realised her passion for working in this area.

“I’ve found I’ve been able to work my way up the ladder: volunteer to carer to auxiliary worker to qualified nurse to unit manager.”

When large hospitals for people with learning disabilities began closing, and patients were re-homed in community houses, she saw that there was a shortage of learning disability specialist nurses, and stepped in.

“We promote individuality and uniqueness and try to give our residents experiences we would want” 

Ms Povey undertook her nurse training at the University of Glamorgan (now University of South Wales), and worked in the NHS for a few years before moving to the private sector, where she remains.

Managing the learning disabilities unit at Greenhill Manor in Cardiff – a care home for older people, young physically disabled and those with dementia – is varied and work-heavy, but she says she enjoys all aspects of it, from the clinical tasks to the more social interactions with the people in her care.

“We promote individuality and uniqueness and try to give our residents experiences we would want,” says Ms Povey. “People sometimes look at a disabled person and see the disability, not the person”.

The team will take service users shopping in Cardiff, or to museums, or sometimes even to a castle, depending on what they’re interested in.

This emphasis on making sure those with disabilities are treated as though they’re no different is something Ms Povey is passionate about, and has led to multiple awards.

In addition to last year’s Best Registered Nurse award (an honour she also received in 2009), Ms Povey was named Nurse of the Year at last year’s Hallmark Care Homes company awards ceremony, out of 500 nurses.

“To be within the last selection would have been something in itself, but to actually win ‘Nurse of the Year’ was unbelievable,” says Ms Povey. “I felt I had won it for my team and for the service users as well.”

Her role as the unit manager for the learning disability unit allows her to lead by example – which she values deeply.

“You can do it as long as you’re prepared to take the knockbacks of life”.

One of the main highlights of her job is “being in the position where I’m able to be a role model and mentor. I’m able to demonstrate to my passion to my team and help encourage their commitment and dedication to our service users”.

This is also something her team values, considering the fact that her manager Mark McCole nominated her for both awards.

For those looking to follow her path, Ms Povey has some advice: “You can do it as long as you’re prepared to take the knockbacks of life”.

Some of those knockbacks include working with people at the end of their lives, which she calls the hardest part of her job.

“It can be challenging and upsetting when it’s someone who’s maybe been with us for five, six, seven, eight years and then the end of life care comes,” says Ms Povey. “The individuals who are with us, the prognosis of their care is never very good.”

But improving the lives of the people she works with is worth the occasional emotional turmoil. And her philosophy on dealing with her service users reflects that.

“I have people who say how much their lives have changed. They have a lot more independence, choice, and feel as though they have a value that they didn’t have before,” says Ms Povey.

“Personally, it’s about accepting people with disabilities as individuals and having unique needs. They’re people who should be treated just the way you and I are. There is no reason they shouldn’t have life experiences and live life like you and I do”.

Kelsy Ketchum

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