You may have seen that throughout August, the SDRC are celebrating our next generation of researchers by devoting a series of blogs to PhD Students/ Early Career Researchers. Read the series so far here

This blog is by Anna Jack-Waugh, who is based at the University of the West of Scotland. 

The SDRC will be posting blogs featuring bios from ECRs throughout August. Follow us on Twitter so you know can keep up to date with the series.

Set up to fail; doctorate study findings

 Scotland’s National Dementia Champions are health and social care professionals who had completed the Dementia Champions programme. The programme is delivered in a partnership between NHS Education Scotland, Alzheimer Scotland Centre for Policy and Practice at the University of the West of Scotland, Alzheimer Scotland and the Scottish Social Services Council. Now on cohort ten over a 1000 champions have been prepared to be agents of change in most health and social care areas in Scotland.

My doctorate study used a theory-methods approach of symbolic interactionism, constructivist grounded theory and third space researcher positionality to construct a theory of the learning experienced by Scotland’s National Dementia Champions.

I used interviews, focus groups and email interviewing with 21 dementia champions engaging in concurrent data generation and analysis. Theoretical saturation led to a storyline of the learning experiences of the dementia champions. Twenty-three peers and stakeholders confirmed the theory’s credibility, resonance and usefulness.

These are my findings.  

The champions told me that in their past, they had been educated, socialised and defined for failure; their theory classes contained minimal content to prepare them to work with people with dementia, then they went to placements where the care they observed for people with dementia lacked humanity.

As young people in their profession, they vowed never to work in those setting again. Their workplaces told them there was no place for people with dementia, their colleagues stated they hadn’t trained to work with people with dementia, stigma remained in many areas of their work, and ultimately people with dementia were rejected by the people who were supposed to help them.  The champions then reported they encountered an unexpected increase in people with dementia coming into their areas.        

On the programme, multiple learning interventions in which interacting with the experience of people with dementia, their families and colleagues became the stimulators of change. Engaging directly with people living with dementia and their experiences of people with dementia caused the change. Each champion had unique interpretations and individual meaning-making on the programme, which lead to a shared outcome of evolution. 

The change the champions experienced was one of how they defined themselves and people with dementia and the definition of people with dementia. The process of change was painful; while on the programme, the champions understood how they defined themselves as proud, competent professionals was flawed. They reflected and experienced pain when they thought about what they had done in the past. They found they had to drop their professional identity to engage in the programme, so profoundly had they been socialised into a perspective which rejected people living with dementia.

The findings are significant because they illuminate the negative long term impact of knowledge and skills gaps in professional programmes. It also illustrates how the current structures of hospitals and services may become so specialised that they reject those who are not defined as their patients.

My study showed the continued need for dementia focussed education in all areas of health and social care and research into that education; to make up for the generations where dementia knowledge and skill development was absent.

I qualified as a mental health nurse in 1993, and now I am a lecturer in Dementia and early career researcher at Alzheimer Scotland Centre for Policy and Practice at the University of the West of Scotland. I studied a BSc (Hons) in Nursing (Nottingham), MSc in Health Professional Education (Huddersfield) and my Professional Doctorate in Nursing (Glasgow Caledonian University) part-time.

Click here for more information about Alzheimer Scotland Centre for Policy and Practice and Scotland’s National Dementia Champions.

View the #oneweething hashtag on social media for achievements of Scotland’s National Dementia Champions.

Follow us @AlzScotCPP

Follow me @annawaugh1