My job

‘Think about the difference you’ve made to someone’s life’

Dementia nurse consultant Yvonne Manson on why bad days at work should always be considered learning opportunities.

Dementia nurse consultant Yvonne Manson on why bad days at work should always be considered learning opportunities

What is your job?

I am a dementia nurse consultant working across 24 care homes in Scotland, supporting improved outcomes for people with dementia, staff teams and family members, dementia care mapping, training, research, networking and writing.

Why did you become a nurse? Why did you specialise in care of older people?

My first job at 19 was in the local care home as a nightshift care assistant. It was clear from my first shift that I had found my career passion. I returned home that night and told my husband that I wanted to make a difference in dementia care. Since then my career has been devoted to doing that.

Shock that people with dementia didn’t have a voice made me certain that was what I wanted to do. I could see a clear difference in the level of care given to someone with dementia compared with someone who didn’t have dementia. In the 22 years since that first shift, I have achieved my nursing degree and a master’s in dementia studies but I have never forgotten it nor the people I met during it. I often reflect on that shift and how far dementia care has come.

You developed a dementia ambassador programme for a care home group. What effect has it had on practice in the care homes involved?

The Balhousie dementia ambassador programme is the work I am most proud of in my nursing career. I work in collaboration with staff and residents to support them with real issues facing individuals in our homes as well as the homes themselves. Because of this collaboration, our work has meaning and makes a difference to residents’ quality of life. Enthusiasm for the programme continues to grow.

Positive outcomes from the ambassador programme
  • We produced a successful dementia strategy.
  • Dementia care mapping has shown increased mood and engagement scores for residents.
  • Increased the number of staff at skilled and enhanced level in promoting excellence in dementia care across the group. Some family members have also achieved skilled level.

The programme brings our ambassadors together every two months as a support network where we share knowledge, ideas, experiences and opportunities for development. Everyone’s voice is valued.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

The people I meet: residents, staff and families. I learn the most from people and they continue to inspire me daily.

What are the challenges in the specialty?

Stigma. Older people’s nursing, and particularly care home nursing, faces a great deal of stigma. The recent Scottish Care report, Voices from the Nursing Front Line, found that care home nurses had been told they were ‘not real nurses’ and many felt undervalued. Often people wrongly believe that care home nursing means you become deskilled, which is far from true and can in fact be the opposite. This negative perception can put people off becoming a specialist.

Outside work, what do you enjoy?

Time with family, reading, yoga and pushing myself to try new things: I like adventure.

What qualities do you think a good older people’s nurse should have?

Communication is one of the most important. If we can communicate and listen well, we can best support any individual and notice any changes sooner because we know the person better.

What advice would you give to a newly qualified older people’s nurse?

Get to know the people you’re supporting, because once you do that you will find what works for them and how best to support them. Like any job there will be ‘bad shifts’, however, these can always be learning opportunities. Reflect on them and what could be done differently to achieve a better outcome. Always think about the difference you’ve made to someone’s life, there’s no greater feeling.

This article is for subscribers only