Nurses diagnosed with dementia have role to play

Nurses who have dementia should be allowed to continue working, RCN congress resolved on Monday morning.

Nurses who have dementia should be allowed to continue working, RCN congress resolved on Monday

Jason Warriner of the RCN Public Health Forum speaking at congress. Picture: John Houlihan

A motion submitted by the RCN Older People's Forum urged the council to develop a strategy for supporting members with dementia to continue nursing.

Age presumptions

The example of clinical psychologist Richard Taylor was used to illustrate that the condition can strike at a younger age than many presume, and that people can continue to do well in their work.

Members heard how he was 58 when he was diagnosed and gave up his job, but applied to become a university lecturer.

He didn't tell his new employers of his illness and for three years his students received the highest grades in the department.

Lecturer of the year

Mr Taylor was voted lecturer of the year, but when he revealed he had dementia his employers admitted they might not have employed if they had known.

Fears were raised that dementia does not get the same treatment as other recognised conditions because of stigma and poor understanding – with the suggestion nurses may be working with a dementia diagnosis undisclosed to their employers and colleagues.


Mary Codling spoke against the motion, fearing for patient safety and telling members of her own father. She warned there was no way of generalising what stage people are at with dementia.

Mary Codling speaking out against the motion put forward by the RCN Older People's Forum.
Picture: John Houlihan

'My father, to the outside world looked normal, but he was actually driving up and down one way streets.'

Her sentiments were echoed by Shirley Ami, who worried about confusion over prescriptions.

Jason Warriner, of the RCN Public Health Forum, said the risks could be managed through proper occupational health support, while Uwem Otong said continuing to work helped people stay healthier for longer, by keeping them in a routine and cognitively active.

The motion was passed by around a three quarters majority.

RCN general secretary Janet Davies welcomed the decision, saying nurses who have dementia had a lot to offer, but not on the frontline in making clinical decisions.

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