My job

Janet Willoughby, hospice dementia nurse

Janet Willoughby, the first dementia nurse to be appointed at the hospice where she works, is passionate about improving end of life care.
Janet_Willoughby

Janet Willoughby, the first dementia nurse to be appointed at the hospice where she works, is passionate about improving end of life care.

What is your job?

Dementia nurse at The Hospice of St Francis in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire. I was appointed to help improve end of life care for people with dementia.

Why did you become a nurse?

I have always been interested in people, especially those managing difficult health problems. Nursing gave me the tools to learn how to help people improve their quality of life.

Why did you choose to work in a hospice?

As a student I was fascinated and appalled by how life ended in a hospital. I had heard that hospices offer good end of life care so I went to find out. The passion and expertise I

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Janet Willoughby, the first dementia nurse to be appointed at the hospice where she works, is passionate about improving end of life care.

Janet_Willoughby

What is your job?

Dementia nurse at The Hospice of St Francis in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire. I was appointed to help improve end of life care for people with dementia.

Why did you become a nurse?

I have always been interested in people, especially those managing difficult health problems. Nursing gave me the tools to learn how to help people improve their quality of life.

Why did you choose to work in a hospice?

As a student I was fascinated and appalled by how life ended in a hospital. I had heard that hospices offer good end of life care so I went to find out. The passion and expertise I found has taught me about delivering good end of life care in different settings, including hospitals and care homes.

You are the first dementia nurse to be appointed by your hospice. What is the purpose of your role?

To work with care home staff across the hospice’s catchment area, and to support and enable them to deliver excellent end of life care to residents with dementia. The hospice is aware of the needs of people with dementia and their carers. I am proud to be part of an outstanding healthcare provider’s team with the ability to advise on, enable and inspire a sustainable service for our community.

What are the specific nursing challenges involved in caring for people with dementia at the end of their lives?

It can be hard to recognise when someone with dementia is dying. Caring for people with dementia is not always straightforward because they often have accompanying complex care and communication needs that require exceptional skill and compassion. Families experience the continual gradual loss of the person they have known and loved. They struggle to manage their feelings of grief, regret and uncertainty when their loved one is diagnosed with dementia.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I love it when we make life – and death – better for someone. While improvements are usually small, they can have a huge effect on the individual and his or her family. I love it too when I am teaching and see the light of understanding in someone’s face. Then I know that things will get a lot better in that person’s workplace.

What nursing achievement are you proudest of?

Being a nurse at the bedside. It was also pretty cool to win the Nursing Older People Nursing in Practice award in 2010. This was for the work I did with a team to help nursing and care home staff support residents approaching the end of their lives.

What is the greatest challenge at work?

The challenges of advanced dementia, particularly communication and meaningful interaction. I challenge staff on the registered dementia care units to implement the Namaste Care Approach, which focuses on an individual’s likes and dislikes to support his or her needs.

What would you change if you could?

Among other basic human needs, we need to be valued, connected, safe and satisfied in our relationships. These needs do not go away when we have dementia; in fact, they increase. I want more people to be available in dementia care facilities to minister to these needs, whether on a voluntary or paid basis.

Outside work, what do you enjoy?

Spending time with my grandchild.

Caring for patients at the end of life may be particularly daunting for newly qualified nurses. What advice would you give them?

Being with an individual and his or her family at this significant life stage is a rare and enriching privilege. Do not take it lightly, embrace the opportunity if you are given it, work as part of a team and take advantage of all education opportunities.

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