My job

‘Don’t be too focused on the task at hand’

Admiral Nurse Sarah Oakwood on her ‘musts’ for working with older people

Admiral Nurse Sarah Oakwood on her ‘musts’ for working with older people

What is your job?

I am an Admiral Nurse at Weston General Hospital in Weston-super-Mare. Alongside supporting families, I support best practice in dementia care among other healthcare professionals in the hospital. Currently, we are looking at developing a specialist dementia pathway, alongside our colleagues in the frailty team, and introducing some bespoke training to support staff who deliver one-to-one enhanced care.

Why did you become a nurse?

In my teenage years I worked in nursing homes and appreciated how important individualised care is, and ultimately how important it is to care for an ageing population.

Where did you train?

At Oxford Brookes University on a four-year nursing degree from 1992-96.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love the opportunities that are opening up to be able to make a difference to the quality of lives of people with dementia while they are in hospital. There is also something so humbling about being able to listen to and support people whose lives have been affected so greatly by dementia. Many may never have had this kind of support before.

What is your greatest challenge?

I would have to say working out how to engage carers early enough in a person’s hospital stay to make the most difference. This will come in time as I progress further in my role. At present my referrals tend to come when someone is close to being discharged.

What has given you most satisfaction?

Supporting carers and ensuring that families are kept involved and informed after the hospital admission of a person with dementia.

This can only be achieved, however, if we ensure that good-quality care for people with dementia in a hospital setting is our priority too.

Outside work what do you enjoy doing?

I am a mum and my children range in age from their pre-teens to early twenties, so they keep me busy. I enjoy crochet and crafting –  it’s a great way to not have to think too much and de-stress.

What or who inspires you, and why?

My family are a constant source of inspiration to me. I hope that in building a better understanding of dementia we are also building a better future for our children to grow older in. My father, who died last year aged 90, was inspiring and had a great ‘can do’ attitude. He was always finding ways to solve problems that others might have found insurmountable.

When working with older people what qualities do you think a nurse should possess?

I discussed this with one of my colleagues, who is a specialist Parkinson’s nurse. We agreed that being patient, empathetic, having a willingness to listen as well as not being too focused on the task at hand are absolute musts.

What advice would you give a newly registered nurse?

To not pay any attention to other people’s opinions about choosing to work with older adults, or choosing to do a degree. Both decisions have proved to be the right ones for me and I can honestly say that 25 years down the line I still love my job and have as much enthusiasm as I did in my early twenties.

What is likely to affect nurses working with older people over the next 12 months?

With increasing pressures on our health and social care systems, it is an ongoing challenge for nurses to deliver individualised care that’s joined up with all providers.


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