The year 2018 is a particularly special year for the Dementia Services Development Centre here at the University of Stirling as it marks the 10 year anniversary of the Best Practice in Dementia Care Learning Course.
In 2007 I was working as a Charge Nurse in a NHS specialist dementia assessment unit. As the clinical lead I grew increasingly concerned that families and patients assumed all ward staff were expert in the care of people with dementia whereas the reality was often far from it. During appraisal conversations with the staff team I recognised that nurses and support workers wanted to do better for people with dementia but we had very few practice development initiatives specific to dementia care and support which would support staff to learn and improve practice. This was also the year that the Scottish Government made dementia a priority and Scotland’s 1st Dementia Strategy was published which meant dementia care and support was now getting some much needed attention.
Recognising the need for positive change, myself and colleagues had the idea to create the Best Practice in Dementia Care Learning Course. We approached NHS management and the DSDC for support to develop materials for staff training and following pilot studies I received a secondment invitation to DSDC which would enable me to develop and lead on this work. The programme launched in 2008 and ten years on it is still one of our flagship courses. I continue to work at the DSDC and now lead the DSDC’s Learning and Development team who are committed to improving lives for people living with dementia. The course is popular because it is accessible to all staff across all areas of practice. It achieves its fundamental purpose of improving the person's experience of care by changing the values, attitudes and beliefs about dementia which are often held by staff who have previously not had opportunities for effective learning in this area of practice.
To date, the Best Practice in Dementia Care Learning Course has achieved some impressive milestones, not to mention the numerous national awards it has won. Over the last 10 years, the DSDC has trained 1,906 facilitators and they have supported over 11,000 learners between them. Internationally the course has also trained facilitators from 10 countries, including as far afield as Australia and Hong Kong. In 2017 the learning materials were translated into Cantonese and this year plans for an Italian version are underway.
Although the course is 10 years old, the University knows that its evolution is important in terms of transferring the latest research evidence into practice and through education we can support people to live well with dementia. There are now five editions of the course designed to be relevant and meaningful to staff in different care settings: Healthcare, Care Homes, Domiciliary Care, Emergency Care and Housing Support. All editions are reviewed and updated regularly to reflect changes in policy and practice and remain evidence based.
The University of Stirling and the DSDC is delighted that, as the course enters its tenth year, it is now a University module. This means that facilitators who complete the course will gain 20 University credits at level 8 on the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). This move has been made because we understand that many facilitators are keen to pursue further education in dementia following their experiences of facilitating the course. Study at this level provides a pathway for them to do so.
Learners will gain the knowledge and skills defined in the Promoting Excellence Framework at Skilled level in Scotland or those outlined in the Dementia Core Skills Education and Training Framework at Tier 2 in England.
Understanding the difficult economic impact that many businesses, health and social care and charitable organisations have had to endure, we have been committed to making this programme affordable. The DSDC team is very grateful to have be awarded charitable donations over the years which have helped educate support staff throughout many communities in Scotland. The learning course continues to be an accessible and efficient way to improve the culture of dementia care within an organisation and I would like to thank all of my colleagues who continue to support and develop this programme of work both here in the UK and abroad.
Face to face learning for the facilitators takes place regularly in the Iris Murdoch Building on the University of Stirling campus. The DSDC also deliver on site courses for organisations wishing to take through groups of staff as this can be more cost effective for them. There are dates scheduled for the Best Practice course over the coming months, which are available to book online.
More information about the Best Practice in Dementia Care Learning Course is available here.