My job

Forget any myths about careers in dementia care – we’re at the cutting edge

Hugh Masters on why care of people with dementia is at the forefront of nursing innovation

Alzheimer Scotland policy consultant Hugh Masters on why he finds working in the field of dementia care so rewarding

Hugh Masters
Hugh Masters received a lifetime achievement award at Scotland's Dementia Awards 2018

What is your job?

I am a policy consultant at Alzheimer Scotland. My role focuses on continuing the delivery of Commitment 7 in Scotland’s Third Dementia Strategy 2017-2020, which aims to improve the experience of people with dementia and their families in hospital.

Why did you become a nurse? What might you have done otherwise?

After leaving school I had a series of jobs, finishing up as a commercial joiner building timber-framed houses. However, after supporting family members through some difficult times I realised working with people is what I wanted to do. I knew from day one I had made the right decision and have never doubted it.

Where did you train?

South Lothian College of Nursing and the Royal Edinburgh Hospital.

How did your background as a clinical nurse influence your earlier role as associate chief nursing officer at the Scottish Government?

I was able to focus on nursing care as a whole, not just physical, hospital-based care. I also hope I showed that the ‘glass ceiling’ for mental health nurses in senior nursing positions can be broken.

You recently received a lifetime achievement award at Scotland’s Dementia Awards 2018 in recognition of your contribution to dementia care. What did that work involve? 

My work has focused on delivering the commitments in the National Dementia Strategies particularly for education and improving the experience of care for people with dementia. Developing a national profile for specialist dementia care led by senior mental health nurses in Scotland is an area that has given me particular satisfaction to see progressing.

What are the current and future challenges for dementia care in the UK?

There are three: maintaining the momentum for the improvements we have seen over the past decade; keeping dementia care high on the agenda in policy and practice – there is still much to do; and ensuring areas, such as research and prevention, that are well developed for other conditions are given equal prominence in the dementia field.

Outside work, what do you enjoy?

I am a lifelong motorcyclist, an interest that shows no sign of waning (much as my family wish it would). I continue to hack my way round a tennis court and to do some tennis coaching and development. Two Border terriers get me out of the house in all weathers.

What advice would you give to a newly qualified nurse?

Well done and welcome to a wonderful profession. I’ve always been told not to give ‘advice’, but if pushed I would say to all nurses to think of a career working with older people and dementia. Forget all the myths and perceptions about a career in this area, it’s an incredibly worthwhile experience and is now at the forefront of innovation and new ways of thinking about how we work in partnership with people. For mental health nurses, embrace dementia care as the specialist area that it is. It requires special skills to work with the complex range of issues that can emerge in people’s and families’ individual dementia journeys, and the evidence base for those skills is now well developed. 

Further reading

Scottish Government (2017) National dementia strategy: 2017-2020

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