Observations of an Admiral Nurse - by Jakki Whitehead

Jakki Whitehead

Jakki Whitehead, an experienced care professional, is training to become one of dementia care’s ‘beacons of excellence’ – an Admiral Nurse. This blog follows her journey from day one.

February 2017 -Effects of change

Just recently I have had occasion to be aware of the effects of change within my own life: change of hours, change of job role and what impact this has had on my home life.

It hasn’t been comfortable, and few big changes are. Yet I frequently see residents with dementia who have left their family and home to be admitted into hospital, then moved to a residential home and then to us at Riversway Nursing Home, without ever returning to their own home. All within a relatively short time.

Those residents have had to cope with three changes of abode in addition to other changes, such as;

  • Absence of family and recognised supports;
  • Changes in physical health or mental health such as confusional states resulting from infections;
  • Changes in medication and a complete change of their known routine.

All of this at a time when the fact that they have dementia makes it more difficult to understand and adjust to what is happening to them.

My manager Jan and I, often tell relatives that it can take three months for us to start to know the resident, their likes and dislikes and for them to get to know us and which carers they like to work with.

Within that time we try to find out about the resident from themselves and from their family. About their past life history, relationships that are important to them and coping techniques that the resident and their relatives have used.

These often highlight recent changes in the routine of the resident, for example a changed night and day sleep pattern is quite common. One of our residents had a very steady 72 hour pattern of sleeping and then 72 hours of waking, she could even enjoy her meals whilst in that sleepy state!

What is important, is to understand that any change, such as those above or maybe a well-loved carer leaving the home, can have massive effects on our residents, sometimes manifesting in changes of behaviour.

It is up to us, as carers, to work out what that behaviour is trying to tell us; this takes time and understanding of the resident to work out how to help them to feel safe, cared for and familiar with their new environment and circumstances and also to support the family through these times.

This doesn’t mean that all change is bad, managed change can be useful and life enhancing. Small changes can mean the world.

Our new activity coordinator Marilisa, was trying different activities with a resident who has been paralysed from the neck down for 20 years. She brought in a tube of bubbles and asked the resident to blow. A stream of bubbles flew across the room followed by tremendous laughter from the resident and Marilisa.

As we reflected later upon the activity we realised what a sense of ability that she must have had. That small change in Marilisa’s thinking had allowed the resident’s actions to have an effect on something, maybe for one of the very few times in 20 years.

Blog by Jakki Whitehead

Admiral Nurse, Riversway Nursing Home.


Click HERE to read my 1st blog (May 2016) - My Journey to become an Admiral Nurse

Click HERE to read my 2nd blog (June 2016)- My Admiral Nursing Journey

Click HERE to read my 3rd blog (July 2016) - My Admiral Nursing Journey

Click HERE to read my 4th blog (August 2016) - My Admiral Nursing Journey

Click HERE to read my 5th blog (November 2016) - My Admiral Nursing Journey





Investing in our Workforce by Virginia Perkins

Virginia Perkins, Head of Human ResourcesThe last 12 months has been a great journey for the Human Resources function which I lead.


One of the main priorities for the workforce has been to increase health and wellbeing awareness across the Springhill Care Group, as it is proven to have a positive impact on productivity, morale and engagement.


I feel that we are now in a stronger position to continue to raise awareness of the importance of keeping fit and healthy, through the various initiatives we are running. These include:


  • Educating the workforce on eating nutritious meals
  • Encouraging staff to attend Health Check days
  • Advising the workforce on being appropriately hydrated
  • Providing the workforce with access to 24-hour free external counselling services
  • Implementation of an attendance bonus
  • Issuing pedometers
  • Ensuring availability of fresh fruit in every staff room
  • Allowing staff to express their suggestions through the Employee Voice.


As a result of these initiatives we have seen a huge increase in employee engagement which has reached 100 per cent in some of our homes together with increased employee attendance in work. This all contributes to Springhill Care achieving one of its corporative objectives of being recognised as an Employer of Excellence in the communities we serve.


Achieving the revised ‘sixth generation’ Investors in People Standard has also been a great achievement for the organisation particularly as it outperformed the health care sector on every level when assessed against the rigorous new version 6 criteria, but it doesn’t stop there.


Continuous improvement is core to the organisation’s continued success and the IiP Steering Group will reconvene to embark on a new journey to achieving the IiP Platinum standard within the next year or so. The IiP Steering Group will also be identifying ways in which it can assist and offer advice to other health care services within the sector by aiming to be a champion organisation in this field.


An ambitious agenda has been set for organisational development in conjunction with Donna Briggs, our Managing Director, to introduce a new competency behavioural stretching framework which will be aligned to the business objectives of the organisation.


We will also be introducing mental health workshops and ambassadors to each of our homes and services to support people who are experiencing mental health problems as well as to improve mental wellbeing in our workforce. Work will also continue on staff retention, employee engagement and investing in our workforce by offering further opportunities for learning and development.


These are just a few examples of what we will be offering staff over coming months, so do check back to find out more as we can announce it.


By Virginia Perkins

Head of Human Resources

Springhill Care Group



My latest blog on my Admiral Nursing Journey - by Jakki Whitehead

Jakki Whitehead, an experienced care professional, is training to become one of dementia care’s ‘beacons of excellence’ – an Admiral Nurse. This blog follows her journey from day one.



November 2016 

Since I last wrote back in August a lot has happened on the Admiral Nurse front.

In September, I went to the annual Admiral Nurse Forum where all Admiral Nurses and Dementia UK staff get together to look at best practice.

This year it was about the place of art in dementia care for people with dementia and their carers, paid or otherwise. We looked at the use of singing, music, dance, physical activity, poetry, cinema and theatre. All of these are recognised in reducing anxiety and stimulating memory and cognition.
We also discussed the importance of the carer role and looking after the carer

A very moving speaker was Tommy Whitelaw from Dementia Carers’ Voices, who looked after his mum. See Tommy share his experiences on YouTube. He spoke of how he assisted his mum through her journey with dementia and the pain he experienced whilst being with her due to the ignorance around dementia.

Tommy said “When people make decisions about you rather than with you then you are on your own.”

This enabled me to realise how important it is for me to continue to raise the recognition of paid carers for our residents as people with life stories, loves and relationships and using this awareness to honour the individual and their families and both of their emotions and experiences.

To this end I have been discussing developing the dementia champion role within Riversway to help carers to understand this and to help limit this lack of sensitivity through awareness of some of the issues experienced by relatives.

Another message was that singing is a very powerful way of connecting with people with dementia and benefits people physically - heart, lungs, brain, posture, breathing and speech; mentally - new skills, achievements, confidence and improvement in mood; and socially - meeting new people. Anyone can sing even if the tune may be a little unconventional and it does mean that everyone’s voice is heard.

I know from experience that singing can really help benefit residents’ wellbeing. At a recent resident and relative group my manager Jan said “Does anyone have anything else to add?” A resident who had sat quietly throughout said “Well do you know we haven’t done any singing yet!” and launched into Oh I do like to be beside the seaside.

Maybe we should end all of our meetings with a song!



Click HERE to read my 1st blog (May 2016) - My Journey to become an Admiral Nurse

Click HERE to read my 2nd blog (June 2016)- My Admiral Nursing Journey

Click HERE to read my 3rd blog (July 2016) - My Admiral Nursing Journey

Click HERE to read my 4th blog (August 2016) - My Admiral Nursing Journey




My latest blog on my Admiral Nursing journey - by Jakki Whitehead

Jakki Whitehead, an experienced care professional, is training to become one of dementia care’s ‘beacons of excellence’ – an Admiral Nurse. This blog follows her journey from day one.


August 2016

I have now had my interview with Ian from the Admiral Nurse Service, Rachel from Dementia UK and Jan, my manager.

The interview got off to a good start when Ian told me he had read my Blog!

I had to give a presentation about the best practice principles of the Admiral Nurse service. These are:

  • High quality support following diagnosis. This was recognised as being very important to people diagnosed with dementia and their families by the National Dementia Strategy in 2009. Good support is often brought up by families as being crucial following diagnosis in order to be able to cope with the life changing news. It does not seem to happen as often as it should.

  • Meeting standards set out in papers such as the Mental Capacity Act, the Care Act, CQC standards, NICE guidelines for dementia and the Prime Minister’s challenge 2020. All of these are important in giving a voice to people with dementia and their families and in safeguarding their wellbeing

  • Whole family support I have mentioned in a previous blog the importance of caring for the whole family, as a dementia diagnosis will often affect everyone. Their initial thoughts and feelings through to dealing with the varied emotions that result from experiencing the loss of the person they knew as the dementia progresses.

  • Partnership working which I took to mean as the importance of good communication with other professionals and services working with the person with dementia and their families. To ensure that everyone is singing from the same song sheet.

  • Finally, Cross service education, the Admiral Nurse service and Dementia UK are very hot on rolling out education about dementia and this starts with ensuring that the Admiral Nurses know what they are talking about to help give good advice and support to people with dementia, families and other professionals.


There were other questions about the Admiral Nurse Standards and the Competency Framework which are put in place in order to ensure good practice.


The interview process was challenging but enlivening and half an hour later I found out that I had been accepted to join the Admiral Nurse service.


I was delighted as I have been working towards this for 5 years. I received congratulations from the Springhill team but I, in turn, thanked them for the opportunity to develop my ambition. I must wait now until September and October when there will be forums, inductions and best practice days.


I will catch you up with my progress in the future but that night I went out for a lovely meal and a large glass of wine.



By Jakki Whitehead, Service Manager for People with Dementia, Riversway Nursing Home




Click HERE to read my 1st  blog (May 2016) - My Journey to become an Admiral Nurse

Click HERE to read my 2nd blog (June 2016)- My Admiral Nursing Journey

Click HERE to read my 3rd blog (July 2016) - My Admiral Nursing Journey 




Healthy Homes by Virginia Perkins

When I joined the Springhill Care Group just over a year ago, I knew one of my priorities would be to increase health and wellbeing throughout the workforce.

One of my roles is to promote the welfare of staff across the entire group, and to me this doesn’t just mean ensuring the correct number of holidays are allocated and appraisals are carried out on time (although these jobs are of course important).

At Springhill, people are the centre of everything we do, and this includes our dedicated workforce. As a result, working with the management team, I have implemented a number of health and wellbeing initiatives to help staff keep in good health.

Busy jobs and busy lives can mean people just don’t make time to look after themselves, and I know from experience that there is much that can be done to help. 

As a result, I liaised with our chefs and we have collated a selection of menu cards featuring healthy recipes from various sources which are affordable, easy to make and part of a balanced diet, these will be available in the next few weeks.  We've already made a start collating menu cards / recipes on our Pinterest board - to view click HERE  - Lot's more will be added over the next few months.

Staff are also being provided with a selection of fresh fruit to encourage healthy snacking and also pedometers to monitor how many steps a day they take, as we know working in the care sector can be physically demanding with employees walking many steps each day as part of their everyday duties.  Information and guidance sheets with tips and advice are also available to help them set out and achieve their individual goals and hopefully go on to take the NHS 10.000 steps challenge .

Recently, we launched the first of our health check days. Springhill Care Home in Accrington was visited by a registered nurse offering staff assistance and advice on a range of topics including mental health issues like stress and anxiety, blood pressure, weight and BMI.

I was very pleased to see that the nurse was quickly booked up all day by staff keen to take part, and we’re now planning on rolling out similar days at the rest of the care group. Our aim is to hold health check days three times a year at each of our homes.

These are just a few examples of what we will be offering staff over coming months, so do check back to find out more as we can announce it.


By Virginia Perkins

Head of Human Recourses

Springhill Care Group



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