Nurse who transformed dementia care is RCN Northern Ireland nurse of the year

Pauline Casey redesigned dementia services at Western Health and Social Care Trust

An older people’s nurse who led the redesign of dementia services at her trust has been named RCN Northern Ireland nurse of the year.

Northern Ireland Nurse of the Year

Pauline Casey of Western Health and Social Care Trust was one of four finalists during the ceremony in the elegant surroundings of Hillsborough Castle, in Northern Ireland, last night.

As the trust’s lead nurse for older people’s mental health, Ms Casey's innovations are credited with ensuring people with dementia can be discharged from hospital without unnecessary delay. She oversaw the development of two assessment centres tailored to the needs of people with dementia, and therapeutic hubs in each of the trust’s hospitals to assess and treat patients with complex conditions. 

The measures achieved a 50% reduction in falls over a year and a 100% reduction in a three-month period in challenging behaviour directed at staff. 

Ms Casey said of her award: ‘I can’t believe it. I am really surprised, just shocked.’ 

Fifteen awards were handed out on the night and guests included RCN general secretary Janet Davies, RCN president Cecilia Anim and Northern Ireland’s chief nursing officer Charlotte McArdle.

In her speech, Ms Davies said: ‘I was reflecting on what our founders would have thought. They would be so proud of all of you and the work you have done. Nurses in Northern Ireland are constantly developing their practice.’

Other winners included Melissa Steele, a staff nurse at Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, who took home the Patient’s Choice award. 

She was nominated by the parents of a 19-year-old man with severe autism and learning disabilities, who was experiencing anxiety and had a mental breakdown before being admitted to Muckamore Abbey Hospital. 

As his named nurse, Ms Steele took the time to get to know the patient to such an extent that his parents said she now understands him as well as they do.

They said she is ‘a godsend’ who is now considered part of the family. 

The cancer nurse award winner was Kirsty McKay, a Macmillan uro-oncology project nurse at Northern Health and Social Care Trust. She was nominated for making an exceptional contribution to improving the after-care of men diagnosed with prostate cancer. 

Jane Ferguson, of Southern Health and Social Care Trust, won the public health award for her work as a health co-ordinator on the Hearty Lives Craigavon project. This aims to improve the cardiac health of Traveller and black and minority ethnic communities and Ms Ferguson was praised for breaking down barriers that include literacy and language difficulties.