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An exploration of how specialist dementia nurses perceive and maintain the skills and competencies that frame their specialism: A qualitative survey

Brown, P., Cooper, C., Dening, K. H. , Hoe, J. ORCID: 0000-0003-4647-8950 & Burton, A. (2024). An exploration of how specialist dementia nurses perceive and maintain the skills and competencies that frame their specialism: A qualitative survey. Heliyon, 10(7), article number e27856. doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2024.e27856


Background: UK policy for complex and long-term health conditions including dementia has recommended that specialist nursing intervention is offered across the trajectory of the condition, but there is a lack of agreement regarding the skills and competencies that specialist nurses are expected to possess. Admiral Nurses are the largest UK group of specialist dementia nurses.

Objective: To explore how Admiral Nurses met and were supported to meet competencies as defined in the Admiral Nurse Competency Framework, and to develop and maintain skills as dementia specialists.

Design: Cross-sectional, semi-structured survey.

Setting: Online national survey.

Participants: Admiral (specialist dementia) Nurses.

Methods: We co-designed our survey with Admiral Nurses; then invited Admiral Nurses to complete it in 2022-23 Data were analysed thematically.

Results: 68 (20% of all Admiral Nurses) completed the survey; most were female (85.2%), from a white ethnic group (88.2%); they reported on average 24 years of nursing experience. We identified three themes in responses: 1. Having time and skills for meaningful support, explored how participants were resourced with time and skills to understand and address family carer client needs by active listening, tailoring person-centred support, and “walking alongside” families. 2. Partnering family carers, concerned how they co-designed interventions with family carers, learning from these collaborative partnerships where expertise was shared. 3. Practice and peer-based learning, explored how participants took responsibility for using available training, peer learning and self-reflection to develop their practice.

Conclusions: Admiral Nurse roles enabled respondents to develop as autonomous practitioners and to access resources that supported them to build and sustain their dementia specialist practice. Learning was practice based, through partnerships with family carer clients, peer support and self-directed learning. Specialist nursing models may help address the global health workforce emergency, through enabling creative practice development and valued roles that support retention of experienced nurses.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons CC-BY license, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
R Medicine > RT Nursing
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Nursing
SWORD Depositor:
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