Svetlana Marici joined us in 2015 as a carer. She qualified as a practice nurse and hospital nurse in her native Romania, where she also worked for a time with the ambulance service.
After moving to the UK she worked her way up to her current role of Deputy Manager at Balhousie Pitlochry.
“I knew from an early age that I needed a career that was not only lifelong but transferable. Because of the circumstances in Romania, in particular the 1989 revolution, I wanted a job I could do anywhere,” says Svetlana.
“Balhousie Care Group was a big support for me personally. It’s a company that does all it can to help its nursing staff, particularly those from overseas.”
As well as the support from Balhousie Care, Svetlana is a firm believer that it’s up to individuals to make career progression happen. “As an individual, it is what you make of it. If you’re interested and keen you will be supported to achieve anything.”
The best thing about her job, she says, is doing her absolute best for residents and their families. “Over the years I’ve been able to gain the trust of families and other professionals in the field. That has given me great pleasure and a sense of purpose. But it’s the residents who are at the heart of this job. Seeing the change in residents for the better is what it’s all about.”
Yvonne Manson’s care homes career began at 19, when she was a care assistant at a home in Fife. Her fascination with the human brain made her want to train to be a mental health nurse, which she did whilst still working in care homes.
With her nursing degree under her belt, Yvonne transferred to a dementia-specific care home, where she worked her way up to the role of manager.
“My learning and training didn’t stop,” she says. “I was still completing various qualifications as care home manager, including leadership and management.” An operations role followed while she was studying for an Msc in dementia studies.”
In 2016, Yvonne joined Balhousie Care Group as dementia nurse consultant where she has developed our award-winning dementia programme. The programme has been so successful that it has been expanded, and Yvonne now heads up a team of three.
“What I love about my job is the diversity. No day is the same. I could be facilitating learning one day, researching the next, talking a a conference the next. I work with staff, families and people with and without dementia.
“But what I’m most proud of is how far our dementia ambassador programme has come. It ensures that every home has at least one staff member who is spreading the word about, and overseeing, our dementia programme.”
A high spot for Yvonne was in 2018 when she won an RCNi award for leadership. “I’ve spent a career fighting the stigma of care home nursing and to win an award chosen by my nursing peers means so very much.”
Kirsty Smith’s interest in nursing began at the age of 16 after her great gran passed away in hospital. She began her career in care as a care assistant in a nursing home and from then moved to a community hospital as a nursing assistant. From then, her career took off and her progression has been rapid.
“As a nursing assistant I was caring for adults with mental health conditions. I was encouraged by my Charge Nurse to apply for an HNC in Health Care,” says Kirsty. There followed a degree course at Stirling University. After graduating in 2009, Kirsty took up her first Staff Nurse post at Stirling Royal Infirmary, followed by a stint at the surgical ward of Forth Valley Royal Hospital.
“I gained knowledge and great experience working in a hospital setting but I always knew I would move to caring for old persons,” she says. Kirsty applied for a Staff Nurse position at Balhousie Wheatlands in Bonnybridge three years ago. Today she is Deputy Manager at Balhousie Dalnaglar in Crieff. Her career progression has been swift, but Kirsty says she couldn’t have done it without the “great support and encouragement” she’s received from the management team. “From the minute I applied for the job in January 2019, I had amazing support from everyone within Balhousie, and was successful at interview.”
Says Kirsty: “I’m very passionate within my role and I feel I’m very caring towards all residents, families a staff. I really enjoy teaching and supporting junior members of the team. Building good relationships is very important which enables all to provide person centred care.”
Kirsty’s hard work was rewarded last year when she was a finalist in Stirling University’s Exceptional Mentoring Awards, in recognition of her outstanding work with nursing students in the final stages of training.
Her advice to anyone considering a career in nursing? “It would be to work hard and learn from others. Listen to mentors and I would encourage my students to ask lots of questions.”
Tony Stewart’s career has taken him from care homes to the Royal Naval Reserve, to professional musician and back to care homes. Nursing is a career which he relishes.
It’s all about making people feel safe and secure, says Tony, who is a Lead Nurse at Balhousie Care’s ASC specialised care unit in Coupar Angus. “The best thing I do is to create an ambience of security, caring and trust with the service users I support,” he says.
A graduate of Perth College and former Nurse of the Year – in recognition for the extracurricular fundraising he has done for his hospital patients – Tony’s interest in care homes has been with him from an early age. “I was a volunteer at a care home in Meigle. I have very fond memories of that experience, including being taught the correct procedure for filling a hot water bottle! The residents had some fantastic stories to tell about their experiences, especially during the second world war.
A stint with the Royal Navy Reserve taught him even more valuable skills, and following some private care home work and time as a touring musician, he joined Balhousie Care Group in 2014. “I applied to ASC The Grange in Balbeggie to start as a Senior Support Worker. I contacted Head Office through my managers and requested that they help me with day release to City University, so that I could complete my return to nursing practice. I’m so grateful that Balhousie supported me through this. I managed to do it without losing hours on the floor, and completed it in 10 weeks.”
Tony was promoted to Senior Nurse with ASC, then last year took up the position of Lead Nurse.
He has some clear advice to new nurses: “Stay focused on the values and be positive in their approach. Get to know your service users and their families, continue to strive to do the best you can by obtaining knowledge and sharing that knowledge within your team. We all learn something new every day.”
It’s thanks to a trip to a Job Centre many years ago that Nikki Sanderson took up nursing. Before that, it was the last thing she was considering as a career.
“Nursing was not a first choice to me as I had grown up with my father being a trained nurse and seen the sometimes unsocial and long hours he had worked,” she says. “On a trip to the job centre in my late teens on a miserable day after a boring day at work as a cash clerk, I was charmed by a gentleman selling nursing as a career choice and that was the start of it.”
That was 26 years ago, and Nikki has held various care home nursing posts since, from junior staff to deputy and manager posts. She is currently Home Manager at Balhousie Huntly in Aberdeenshire.
“I have worked at Balhousie Huntly since it opened in November 2012, when I started as a part time night staff nurse. At Balhousie I have always had support to progress, including funding for my SVQ4. The staff at Huntly are a great bunch and always try to give the best care they can and support each other well in this aim.
For Nikki, the support across departments is crucial to everyone getting a great job done. “There is always someone who can answer a question or listen to concerns and this helps greatly.”
Her words of wisdom for would-be or new nurses? “My advice to anyone starting out is that it is not always easy and we all work long hours but the sense of achievement you get when you receive a smile and a thank you is immense, almost better than chocolate!”