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Surbiton Home

Helping Michelle become the Nursing Associate she wants to be

This year The Royal Star & Garter Homes was shortlisted at The Student Nursing Times Awards for Nursing Associate Training Programme Provider of the Year. We have been welcoming Trainee Nursing Associates (TNAs) to our Surbiton Home since the pilot scheme began in 2017, we’ve been fully supportive and involved in the national project from the beginning. Here, Michelle Nicholls, a TNA who did a work placement at The Royal Star & Garter Home at the end of last year, talks about her time with the Charity.


In November 2018 I had my first placement as a Trainee Nurse Associate. I was allocated a place at The Royal Star & Garter Home in Surbiton. I was extremely excited but also very nervous at the same time. I had never worked in a nursing home as my current role is in a GP setting, so I had no knowledge of what work it would entail.

From the morning I stepped through the door, seeing the Receptionist and the Hospitality Assistant I was immediately put at ease with a welcoming smile. I was then introduced to the Admin Manager Sue who was fully prepared for my arrival. I had a very thorough induction and was given information about the Home and its history. I was introduced to my Nurse Supervisor Connie who immediately made me feel at home. She listened to me and my worries and fully understood that I had no previous experience. We had an initial interview where my expectations were managed as well as what the Home expected of me and a thorough plan was made. The Home met my needs with the hours I could work. The flexibility was fantastic as it meant I did not have to miss out on any of my children’s activities, and was able to organise school drop-offs or collections. This enabled me to concentrate on the job I was there to do instead of worrying about my home life.


My Supervisor and all the staff at the Home were really supportive. They have a very deep understanding of their roles and how it makes the residents feel, safe, secure and at home. I was able to shadow many different roles, HCAs, Nurses, Physiotherapy, Speech and Language Therapy, Dietician, Chiropody and the GP. This increased my knowledge of each subject immensely, and how each of them contributes to the well-being of the residents. I was supported to undertake procedures that I would not do in my normal role, such as personal care, taking vital signs when a resident is deteriorating, changing a stoma, administering medication and general interaction with residents who have dementia or need nursing care.

Lead Nurse and TNA mentor Connie Chingwaru (l) with TNA Clare Weston and Surbiton residents

Throughout my four-week placement, I had regular meetings with my Supervisor. We had the opportunity to discuss difficulties I had or anything that I needed to reflect on. I was encouraged to push myself, and became more independent in the work I was doing but still under the guidance of the nurses.


Whilst there, I spent time on the dementia floor. This is something I have never seen in the community and do not have any personal experience with either. I learnt about the many stages of dementia and the way it affects people’s lives and the progressiveness of the condition. Seeing for myself the debilitating effects of dementia and the daily struggles people have caught me off guard and I found myself very upset and emotional. The staff, including Director of Care Pauline Shaw, saw me and took me aside. I was made a cup of tea and between Pauline and members of the Admin and Nursing team I was given the time to settle and talk about how the experience had made me feel. They made me feel comfortable and that it was quite normal to feel the way I felt and that actually one day I will make a great Nursing Associate because I have care and compassion for the people I was looking after.


Having finished my placement with the home, I miss working there. I learnt a lot, and the experience I have gained I can take forward into many other roles. It has made me realise I can push myself further and become the Nursing Associate I want to be and perhaps a fully registered nurse, and perhaps be able to go back to the Home and work for them in the future.