A caring Cardiff woman has achieved what sounds like an impossible feat by climbing the corporate ladder while keeping her feet on the ground.
Andrea O’Loughlin qualified as a nurse about 30 years ago and although she now holds a managerial position in the adult social care sector, she has also retained her registration as a nurse, which she passionately believes helps provide quality care to unlock the potential of the people she supports.
She is so highly respected by her colleagues that she has been nominated and shortlisted for a prestigious care award, and next month will attend the glittering ceremony at City Hall, Cardiff to discover the winner.
Andrea, 54, who lives in Pontprennau, has worked in health and social care for most of her working life, joining Integra Community Living Options, part of National Care Group, in 2011.
Andrea has since progressed through numerous positions and is currently National Care Group’s regional operations manager for South Wales with responsibility for the nine homes across the region and is also Integra’s designated Responsible Individual.
Retaining her nursing pin, Andrea is also part of the clinical team that provides ongoing advice to Integra’s services via an on-call system and carries out clinical reviews for the people supported.
It was Integra’s team leader, Justine Harris, who nominated her for one of this year’s Wales Care Awards. She has now been shortlisted in the category for Leadership and Management in Residential Care Services, to be sponsored by Christie and Co.
The awards are organised by Care Forum Wales to recognise outstanding work in the care sector.
According to Justine, Andrea led on Integra’s integration into National Care Group seamlessly in 2019 whilst maintaining consistent leadership and guidance for the organisation’s managers and support workers.
“She is an exceptional senior leader who is always approachable, with an open-door policy, and embraces any suggestions or changes to improve our services” said Justine.
Despite her responsibilities, she is often found on the ‘shop floor’, using her experience to help with specific problems.
“We learn from her every day” Justine added.
Andrea is determined to keep her nursing registration.
“My passion was to be a nurse and there’s no doubt in my mind that it is an asset in the social care field,” she said.
She has a daughter of 22 and a son of 16, and in her spare time is a keen theatre-goer.
“I love all kinds of stage shows, from musicals to dramas,” she said.
The care awards will be presented at a ceremony in City Hall, Cardiff, on October 21, when the host will once again be the popular tenor and radio presented Wynne Evans, well-known as Gio Compario in the Go Compare TV adverts.
The evening, which is sponsored by Ontex UK, will be streamed live on the night.
Mario Kreft MBE, Chair of Care Forum Wales, said the aim of the Wales Care Awards was to recognise the unstinting and remarkable dedication of unsung heroes and heroines across Wales.
He said: “The social care sector is full of wonderful people because it’s not just a job, it’s a vocation – these are people who go the extra mile for others.
“During the Covid crisis, this fantastic workforce rose magnificently to the challenge, putting their own lives on the line to do everything they possibly could to safeguard the people for whom they provide care.
“Unfortunately, it has taken a global pandemic for many other people to realise how important and how significant our social care workforce is.
“Their incredible contribution was summed up best in the powerful and emotive words of the song, Heroes of our Heart, written by the acclaimed poet Mererid Hopwood and sung by Sir Bryn Terfel, which was set to the famous tune of Men of Harlech. The message that the diolch should last forever is one that we should never forget.
“If you don’t recognise the people who do the caring you will never provide the standards people need and never recognise the value of people who need care in society.
“All the nominees deserve to be lauded and applauded and it’s a real pleasure to honour the contribution of all the finalists.
“I congratulate all the individuals who have shown outstanding dedication and professionalism. Every one of them should be proud of their achievement.
“They are Wales’s finest.”