We talk to Ann Regan, specialist nurse in dementia at Willow Wood Hospice, Lancashire, who has been nursing for 30 years.
Why did you become a nurse?
As a child I spent six weeks on an isolation ward. I admired the matter of fact and non-judgemental way in which nurses dealt with my delirium and incontinence. After leaving hospital and returning to school I changed my ambition from wanting to be a ballet dancer to being a nurse. My school teachers dissuaded me, arguing I was not “aiming high enough” so I enrolled to study an unrelated subject at university, but after completing this and doing voluntary work at a centre for people with disabilities, I realised it was nursing that I wanted to do.
Where did you train?
I did my general nurse training at South Manchester School of Nursing and my post-registration training in mental health at Stockport Medical Education Centre.
What was your first job in?
Staff nurse on a care of the elderly rehabilitation ward at Withington Hospital, South Manchester.
What is the trait you least like in yourself?
I do too many things at once.
From whom have you learnt the most from in your career?
The patients who endure devastating and life-changing illnesses and injuries with dignity. Working with survivors of head injuries and those living with neurological illnesses has been a humbling experience.
I would hope that we can return to nursing as a practical activity, spending time with patients, giving the most intimate of care
What advice would you give someone starting out?
Work in a number of fields before choosing to specialise.
What keeps you awake?
Concern over the stories that families have told me about the people with dementia I am assessing and how the condition has impacted on the entire family.
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
Being able to suggest and support changes that make a difference to the quality of life of people with dementia who have been experiencing distressing symptoms as they approach end of life.
What’s your proudest achievement?
Developing the hospice dementia service so those dying with dementia can have their care transformed from that of the disadvantaged dying to the higher quality end-of-life care that is available to those with cancer.
What will change nursing in the next decade?
I would hope that we can return to viewing nursing as a practical activity, where spending time with patients, giving the most intimate of care, is not fully delegated to junior staff. Such practical work is where the unique nurse-patient relationship can flourish
What do you think makes a good nurse?
Compassion, common sense, an eagerness to learn and get involved in the lives of the people we care for.
If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?
The artificial divide between social care and healthcare, so it can be acknowledged that the two cannot be separated in a meaningful way.
What’s your ideal weekend?
Cycling in the beautiful countryside of our national parks.
If you could spend an hour with someone, who would it be?
The author Mitch Albom to discuss the spiritual nature of his writing.