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'We are not providing the best care to patients with dementia in recovery'

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Helena plans to use her chief nurse junior followship to explore and tackle the issues surrounding providing care to patients with dementia in post-anaesthetic care.

I am a staff nurse in the post-anaesthetic care unit (also known as the recovery room) of a regional major trauma centre and huge teaching hospital and I was recently successful in securing a part-time post as a Chief Nurse Excellence in Care Junior Fellow for my clinical division at Nottinghamshire University Hospitals (NUH) NHS Trust.

I decided to focus on the biggest challenge I face in my day-to-day work: caring for patients with dementia after a general anaesthetic.

Dementia care in acute hospital trusts has improved immensely over recent years, particularly with the publication of documents such as the government’s paper ‘Living well with dementia: A national dementia strategy’.

”Dementia care in acute hospital trusts has improved immensely over recent years”

In my experience however, the recommendations laid out in such documents are not specific to the theatre and recovery environment and would be difficult to adapt for use in this area. This could be due to the intricacies of maintaining the sterile environment, the complexities of the surgery itself and the greatly adverse effect that any risk-taking could have on the patient.

Whatever the reason may be, we are not providing the best care to patients with dementia in our recovery rooms.

It appears that there are pockets of excellent practice in this area across the NHS, with examples of hospitals recognising the failure to adapt recovery care to better accommodate patients suffering from dementia and trialling new techniques to improve their practice.

However, there is no coordinated effort prompted, for example, by recognition of this aspect of the patient’s journey in the dementia guidelines and published literature.

”I have begun to look at improving the experiences of patients with dementia in recovery at NUH”

For my Chief Nurse Junior Fellow project, I have begun to look at improving the experiences of patients with dementia in recovery at NUH. The support from colleagues has been encouraging – the results of a staff survey I distributed in my first few weeks in post showed that I am not alone in wanting to tackle this issue.

Over the coming year, I aim to facilitate a better experience for patients with dementia and their significant others through our recovery department. It is a fantastic opportunity to have the space and support to directly influence the area in which I work. However, I am by no means an expert in dementia care and could do with the back-up of dementia specialists…and a few pointers from the research evidence base. I wonder why this significant slot in the patient journey is neglected in national guidelines and in the literature.

This Chief Nurse Junior Fellow post is as much about personal development as the project itself. Therefore, I know I can learn much through this experience, particularly I think through challenging the nursing culture in my department to adapt to new practices.

I look forward to picking the brains of our Director of Nursing at our next group supervision to find out what she would do in my shoes!

Helena Edis is a recovery staff nurse & chief nurse excellence in care junior fellow at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust

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