Welcome to my new blog series for Dementia Researcher where I will sharing monthly updates about dementia and dementia care, whilst providing snippets into my own personal and professional life. I thought I would start this blog series with an introduction. My name is Emily Oliver and I am a mental health nurse currently working as a Consultant Admiral Nurse for Dementia UK. I am passionate about dementia care, particularly in acute hospitals and am particularly interested in how to improve work systems to facilitate good care.
My career so far
So where to start? I am currently 27 so my career has been relatively short, however, I am one of those people who doesn’t tend to sit still and as a result, I have managed to fit quite a lot in. I will start in 2011, when I started University, as I am sure most of you aren’t interested in what I studied at GCSE and A-level (for those who are – biology, health and social care, English and history!).
In 2011, I made the decision to start the journey of mental health nursing. Prior to this I actually wanted to be a midwife and attended many university open days with this intention, however, after hearing a story from a mental health lecturer about accidently eating a “pot brownie” on a visit, I was converted (read of that what you will!!). Jokes aside, I chose mental health nursing because I wanted the opportunity to provide care to people who needed it most. Even at 18, I was no stranger to the growing concern around mental health with diagnosis rates increasing and services reducing and I thought it was a career which provided many different opportunities across a range of specialisms.
A whirlwind 3 years in Southampton and 6 placements later, I was ready to submit my dissertation and graduate, with the sudden panic of what next? As all newly qualified nurses did, I applied for a range of jobs, however, it wasn’t actually direct clinical work which I felt was my calling. Our last year of undergraduate nursing involved writing a dissertation about an audit and I chose to explore the use of antipsychotics in dementia care. I found so much enjoyment in searching and reading through the literature and designing an audit that had the potential to make a difference to practice at a strategic level. I discussed this with my tutor at the time and she suggested that I thought about research as a career. A few weeks of reading up on academic nursing careers and an open evening later and I was applying for a NIHR Clinical Academic Doctorate at the University of Southampton.
I won’t go into too much detail here about the clinical academic fellowship as feel this could be a range of blog posts in itself but to cut (a very long!) story short – my PhD explored the work system of acute hospitals and its impact on nursing staff capacity for high quality dementia care. It was a qualitative ethnographic study consisting of observations, interviews and thematic analysis. I learnt so much during the 4 years of my PhD (both clinically and academically), was given so many opportunities and I definitely don’t think I would be in the job I am today without it, so would highly recommend to anyone thinking of doing it. As I said, I will write more about this in future blog posts so watch this space……
What I do now?
6 years since I started my PhD and I am now working as a Consultant Admiral Nurse for the national charity, Dementia UK. In this role, I support specialist dementia nurses (Admiral Nurses) to set up and sustain relationship centred dementia services across a range of settings in the South West of England and South/West Wales. Within this job, I also deliver training, provide supervision to nurses, sit on expert research panels, contribute to research and write for publication. I am also a member of my local ethics committee in which I review research proposals and was recently awarded a Florence Nightingale Travel Scholarship in which I will be travelling to Denmark to learn more about their dementia friendly hospital proposal (more blog posts to come!!).
SO what next?
As many clinical academic students in healthcare, I am always thinking about what’s next? And the truth is, I don’t know. I absolutely love my job and feel like I have enough on my plate but, as ever, I will continue to scope new opportunities, continue to learn about dementia and dementia care, continue to be involved in research and from now, continue to update you with blog posts!
P.S. I do also have a life outside of work (although that probably isn’t why you are here) but just so you know a bit about my personal life, my hobbies include surfing, running, country walks, cooking, shopping and gardening!
Dr Emily Oliver is a Consultant Admiral Nurse working for Dementia UK, visiting Fellow at the University of Southampton and Florence Nightingale Scholar. Emily recently completed her NIHR Clinical Academic Doctorate at the University of Southampton, in which the focus was relational care for people with dementia in acute hospital wards.