Student nurse among staff shortlisted in prestigious awards

A student nurse from Milton Keynes is among a whole host of staff at specialist care provider, PJ Care, who have been shortlisted in prestigious care awards.

Heather Marchant, 31, from Eaglestone was a finalist in the ‘Dementia Carer’ category of the Great British Care Awards for the South East region. The awards are held annually and recognise excellence in the care sector.

Having started her career at PJ Care eight years ago as a healthcare assistant, Heather worked her way up to become an assistant practitioner, supporting nursing staff with clinical duties, writing care plans for residents and mentoring new staff.

She’s now studying for a degree in mental health nursing. Having accessed the course through the apprenticeship programme at PJ Care, Heather made it to the finals in the East Midlands heats of the National Apprenticeship Awards.

“It’s lovely to have this recognition because I genuinely love what I do,” Heather said.

“My nan has vascular dementia so it’s part of my personal and professional life. I really enjoy building relationships with our residents, finding out as much as I can about them and getting to know their families, so we can ensure a person-centred approach to care.”

Her entry also caught the judges’ attention because of undertaking training in her own time to further her knowledge of dementia care, with the aim of becoming a specialist dementia nurse.

PJ Care was shortlisted in a total of ten categories of the Great British Care Awards for the South East, and a further five for the East of England, including ‘Care Employer of the Year’ and for its ‘COVID Management’.

“We were thrilled to be shortlisted in every category that we entered,” said Chairman, Neil Russell.

“Our staff are innovative, dedicated and passionate about providing care for our residents, and to get to the finals is wonderful for them, and us as a company.

“Heather is a great example – she has shown such enthusiasm for developing her career and providing such a high standard of care to our residents. She’s also a very positive influence on the carers around her, and we’ve been delighted to be able to support her studies.”

The company’s COVID management team was noted for its strategic approach to dealing with the pandemic. Early action and prompt planning meant the staff had a constant supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) and daily meetings allowed the team to make decisions quickly and get feedback on outcomes.

A minibus service was introduced to bring staff into work, so they didn’t have to use public transport, and air filtering systems were installed.

The company was also recognised for recruiting more than 70 temporary staff when the pandemic first hit and up to 30% of staff were forced into precautionary self-isolation.

Staff across the board were finalists including nurses, a chef, carers and the training team.

Specialist nurse, Micheala Russell, was shortlisted in the ‘Care Innovator’ category for introducing a new referrals department. By dedicating nurses with the appropriate skills to assess whether individuals are suitable to move in, 50% more people are being admitted from home or inappropriate placements.

“There are not many care settings that can offer a real home to the people who live with us,” said Neil. “What the figures Micheala has achieved really mean is more people getting the specialist care and support they need to be able to live life as fully as possible.”

The winners of the awards will be announced in April 2021.