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'Creative activities can improve care home residents' lives on many levels'

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Victoria Elliot, NICE Fellow and Principal Care Consultant for The Orders of St John Care Trust (OSJCT), talks to Victoria Stevans about the ways she has seen creativity brought into the delivery of care to support patients’ general wellbeing

victoria elliot

victoria elliot

Victoria Elliot

“I remember once, when I was a student nurse, I was helping an elderly man to wash his back when I noticed he had extensive sun damage on it ,” says Victoria Elliot.

“I commented on the damage and he told me that he had been a prisoner of war working on the railways in Burma in the Second World War.

“I felt very humbled and privileged to be able to meet this gentleman and to hear his recollections. Working with older people can be fascinating, everyone has a story to tell and a richness to this narrative because of their age and cumulative life experiences.”

“I don’t think any of us would elect to be looked after in a hospital setting for any period of time”

Ms Elliot has worked for OSJCT for 10 years and previously held the position of care quality director. Before this, she worked in a variety of NHS management settings. “I was initially attracted to community nursing over hospital based care 30 years ago, because at that time the power dynamics between patients and practitioners were more equal in the community, if not reversed; you were the guest in their home,” she explains.

Providing care in a person’s own home has always made sense to Ms Elliot. “Given a choice I don’t think any of us would elect to be looked after in a hospital setting for any period of time,” she says. ”The majority of people would be more comfortable being cared for in their own home.”

Ms Elliot recalls how as a child she would sometimes accompany her mother on her rounds as a district nursing sister in a rural practice. As a result of these insights, Ms Elliot was part of the first intake of students to complete the community nursing degree at Kings College, University of London, qualifying as both a district nurse and health visitor.

“Creative activities within a care home setting are important on so many different levels”

A large proportion of time in her current part-time role is spent working with charities and other practitioners to enhance opportunities for residents to engage with the creative arts. “I try to complement the quality of the direct care we provide to residents by focusing on the arts and the input from the wider multidisciplinary team,” she says.

She places great importance on how creative arts can improve residents’ lives. “Creative activities within a care home setting are important on so many different levels,” Ms Elliot explains. “They can improve emotional wellbeing and help to give people a sense of purpose and interest. Also, they can help initiate and foster relationships and greater understanding between residents and between residents and care staff, and help to reduce isolation and loneliness.”

Another part of her role has been making links with universities to increase the number of allied health professional student placements the trust provides. Occupational therapy, physiotherapy and social work students working on placements in a number of our care homes bring a unique set of skills and expertise from which both residents and care teams can benefit.

“Students inject new ideas, ask probing questions and challenge care teams to reflect on their current practice”

The students often have more scope and opportunities to develop their confidence and undertake new projects than they would in an NHS setting. They also act as ambassadors for their respective disciplines and by working alongside the care team educate their colleagues as to the role of their profession with respect to older people’s care. The student practitioners can gain great satisfaction from the relationships they develop with residents and the positive changes they can make in such a placement.

“I’ve always felt strongly about the value students bring to any care setting,” says Ms Elliot. ”They inject new ideas, ask probing questions and challenge care teams to reflect on their current practice and how they are supporting residents with their lifestyles. Their skills complement those of the care home teams.”

Ms Elliot has been a fellow with NICE for the past three years, which she explains she has found personally and professionally enriching. Being involved with the development of a NICE guideline and some quality standards has provided her with insight into how such evidence-based guidance is produced. She notes that nurses are under-represented within the NICE fellows and scholars programmes.

“I would encourage all nurses and particularly those working in social care to apply for any opportunities to work with NICE”

Commenting on the fellowship with NICE, she says, “It has been a valuable professional experience and I would encourage all nurses and particularly those working in social care to apply for any opportunities to work with NICE. Nurses can provide a practical, reality based perspective on care delivery that is essential in the shaping of NICE guidelines if they are to be translated successfully into practice.

“The nurse perspective complements the perspective offered by the academic or senior clinicians around the NICE guideline table.”

The application period for fellowships starting on 1st April 2018 will run from September until November. The opportunity will be advertised on the NICE website.

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