L-R Agnes Oliphant, Home Manager at Lisden Care Home and Kayleigh Young, Student Nurse at University of Dundee

As we mark International Nurses Day this Sunday, 12th May, our care home in Kirriemuir is on a mission to change perceptions around care home nursing.

Lisden Care Home in Kirriemuir, has been welcoming student nurses from the University of Dundee, Abertay University, and Dundee & Angus College for placements for a number of years. Bringing future members of the nursing profession into the care home environment, and seeing the positive experiences the students are having, has spurred the team at Lisden to champion the exceptional work of care home nurses everywhere.

They aim to become a centre of excellence, so much so, one of our nurses at Lisden, Robyn OIiphant, is a finalist at the RCN Scotland Nurse of the Year awards later this month.

Led by Agnes Oliphant, a nurse and our Home Manager at Lisden, she is proud to break stigmas around care home nursing. Agnes said:

“What people don’t always see and understand about care of the elderly is that it’s actually a speciality. Nursing in this area is so complex clinically, from caring for people with dementia to physical ailments like diabetes and COPD, and so much more. People don’t see that side of what we do because we’re a home, not a hospital.

“It’s been wonderful seeing students come here and have really great learning experiences. I think it’s made them see that care home nurses work incredibly hard and there’s a lot of autonomy as well. I think you’ve got to be confident in your nursing assessments and abilities given the enormous responsibility you have as a care home nurse, because you’ve got to be thinking outside the box a lot of the time.”

Last November, Kayleigh Young, a second year Adult Nursing student from the University of Dundee, joined the home for a six-week placement. She enjoyed it so much that she has signed up to be a bank Senior Carer while she completes her studies. Kayleigh admits her perception of care home nursing has been transformed by her time with the team and residents at Lisden. Kayleigh said:

“I was quite nervous before I started my placement as I wasn’t 100% sure what I would learn. Honestly, I’ve learned so much. I got so much support from everyone I worked with. It really helped me develop critical thinking. I learned about medicine administration, wound care, personal care and personal care documentation, that’s just a few areas. I loved getting to know the residents too. That’s one of the best things about working in a care home is the close bonds you build. It’s quite different from hospital nursing in that way.”

Support in changing perceptions has also come from Helen Brown. Also a nurse, Helen is the Care Home Education Facilitator covering NHS Tayside liaising with the Universities and Colleges. She works closely with the care home staff to facilitate their preparation to supervise and access nursing students on placement.

Having spent a great deal of time in care homes through her work, Helen is passionate about recognising the challenging and varied work of nurses in care home settings. Helen said:

“Care homes are lovely. So is Agnes! What a lovely woman, what a lovely team. I think the care home nurse is a warrior for their residents and will advocate for them. It’s quite humbling. The perceptions persist, but, from a learning perspective, it’s a gift for a student to go into a care home. You can’t beep for a doctor like you often can in a hospital environment. It’s a different style of nursing, but your clinical knowledge has to be spot on. That’s hugely valuable for students to develop as they train.

“I’ve come across students who think all they will do is personal care. I’m quick to point out the learning opportunities. Supporting someone with their personal care is a privilege. While you’re undertaking that, you’re assessing the person all the time, such as mood, ability/disability, independence/dependence, condition, speech, balance, strength, skin integrity, pressure areas, foot health, pain, dexterity, and so on, plus any referrals that are required. And you’re always considering how to make the care person-centred for that resident. You’re building a relationship. It’s so much more than people realise.”

Currently, Lisden Care Home welcomes one nurse per placement, but they are planning, with support from Helen, to increase that to two students by partnering with Kirrie Connections, a local dementia-friendly community hub. Helen added:

“Some of the people who go along to Kirrie Connections may become residents at Lisden in the future as their dementia progresses. By visiting and engaging with people, the students can see the journey from the early stages of diagnosis through to the later stages – all while developing their skills to be even more empathetic, caring and kind.”

For Kayleigh, her experience at Lisden means she is considering returning to care homes once she’s graduated. Kayleigh said:

“I love spending time with the residents and older people generally, so I am definitely considering medicine for the elderly or care home nursing. I’d say to any student nurses considering care home nursing and working with the elderly, go in with an open mind. I’m aware of things that can be said about care homes and it’s just not true. it’s such a good experience and you’re going to learn so much.”