Exploring the Impact of a Training Programme on Acute Healthcare Professionals’ Attitudes and Understanding of Dementia

Orla Quirke, Department of Nursing and Health Care Studies, Institute of Technology Tralee, Co. Kerry.

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Acute healthcare professionals lack education and training in dementia care. This results in people with dementia having poorer outcomes when admitted to the acute healthcare setting. An overarching aim of The National Dementia Strategy (2014) is the provision of optimal care for people with dementia in all healthcare and community settings. In response to this, Dementia Elevator a national inter-professional suite of educational programmes were developed by Dublin City University and the Health Service Executive to help individuals, communities and health systems engage positively with people with dementia. This study aimed to evaluate the impact of a four-hour dementia training programme on acute healthcare professionals’ attitudes and understanding of dementia.

A mixed methods research methodology was employed to answer the research questions. Questionnaires and semi structured interviews were the chosen research methods utilised. The first phase of this study employed a quantitative approach (n=42), and the second phase employed a qualitative approach (n=9).

The findings from this study indicate that participants’ attitudes to dementia were high and were enhanced as a result of the training programme. There was a statistical significant difference in attitudes post the educational intervention illustrating healthcare professionals’ optimism towards the abilities and future of individuals with dementia. Participants adopted a range of discourse when constructing people with dementia including: competency to care, emotional challenges and organisational culture. Furthermore, wider discourses were drawn upon by participants that constructed identities of people with dementia.

Overall, healthcare professionals strived to deliver person-centered care but were impeded owing to the task focused culture within the acute setting and emotional challenges. Acute care settings must become more dementia-friendly for individuals with dementia owing to the findings of this study with a focus on environment, staff competency and the overall organisational culture of these settings. Healthcare professionals require further education and training in the area of dementia and the promotion of a person-centered approach to care.