Caring for people with dementia – a day in the life of a Forth Valley nurse

Nicola Wood, a Mental Health Nurse and Team Leader in Liaison Psychiatry based at Forth Valley Royal Hospital, has worked with older people with mental health needs since she qualified 10 years ago.

Here, as part of National Dementia Week, she shares her experiences of caring for people with dementia:

At any one time 220 older people in Forth Valley Royal Hospital will be affected by a mental health condition with around 100 having dementia (approximately half undiagnosed). The Liaison Psychiatry Team for Older People, which consists of four full time Nurse Specialists, a Consultant Psychiatrist and a secretary, carries out specialist mental health assessments for older people to help identify their individual needs. We provide this service 7 days per week and respond to referrals colleagues working across the hospital. The aim is to identify patients who may require support as early as possible as this can often reduce the length of time they need to stay in hospital.

A typical day for me starts at 7.00am. I check the details of all of the newly admitted patients on the mental health database to check for any previous history with the service.  This enables me to access relevant information regarding the person’s diagnosis, medications and support needs. Relevant information can then be shared  with the wider multi-disciplinary Team to help develop an individual care plan. Patients who are at risk of delirium are highlighted so this can be monitored and if a person requires further specialist care then they are added to my caseload.

I then check for referrals from other areas of the hospital which are allocated to a team member.  Once new assessments are complete I then move onto reviewing my current patients, however, each day can vary depending on the number and urgency of the referrals received and the needs of the existing patients.  I work closely with the consultant to provide a diagnosis, initiate treatment plans and arrange for specialist follow up care once a patient has been discharged.  I also work closely with a patient’s family and the team follow up patients if they are transferred to a local community hospital to help provide continuity of care.  As a Team Leader, I am also responsible for the ongoing development of the service, carrying out audits, monitoring our performance and managing other team members.

As well as my liaison role, I also spend part of my week helping to deliver the National Dementia Strategy. My focus is on the journey of people with dementia and the care they receive if they are admitted to hospital. As part of this role I work closely with the National Dementia Champions – 1 in particular who is being supported to carry out improvement work and the lead for Commitment 11 who focuses on dementia care in the 4 specialist wards we have.

I also go along to local Carer’s Centres to gather feedback from carers on their real life experiences of hospital care and use this to drive forward further changes and improvements. In addition, I provide education, chair a working group and report back on progress.  It is a challenging yet rewarding job and I enjoy meeting and building new relationships with other people who have the shared goal of improving care for those with dementia and their loved ones. After my busy day I then return home to my other job – a mum to an energetic three year old!