Should Nurses With Dementia Be Allowed To Keep Working?


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Many nurses enjoy dedicating themselves to their profession for a lifetime. Doing an exceptional job in the medical field requires the men and women of nursing to be in an optimal state of health. Although they are counted on for their healing knowledge and caring assistance, nurses can sometimes develop health conditions, such as dementia, that interfere with the safe performance of their daily tasks. The prevalence of dementia has led to this question in the medical industry: Should nurses with dementia be allowed to continue working?

Nursing with Dementia: Safety Must Be Remembered

Dementia is a mental condition that can severely interfere with memory retention and thinking processes. Being that the term refers to a wide variety of mental issues, symptoms can vary depending upon the specific condition. Dementia describes mental conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and more.

The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Nurses diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease may have difficulties learning and remembering new information. Memory and quick thinking are absolutely necessary for carrying out the daily tasks of nursing. Nurses often care for multiple patients at a time, visiting different rooms and carrying out a variety of specific tasks during a single shift. Alzheimer’s disease can negatively affect a nurse’s memory when it comes to important patient information, such as the patient’s condition, medical appointments, special treatment requirements, or medication allergies.

If specific patient information is forgotten, a patient’s condition could severely worsen and a life could be put at risk. Safety must always be remembered when it comes to every facet of the nursing profession. A condition such as Alzheimer’s disease could cause a nurse to endanger the lives of patients and him or herself.

Warning Signs of Dementia

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are 10 warning signs that may suggest the presence of Alzheimer’s:

  • Difficulty remembering new information
  • Difficulty planning important tasks or solving problems
  • Problems completing daily tasks
  • Confusion regarding the time of day or present location; asking questions such as “What time is it?” or “Where am I?”
  • Experiencing problems with vision and understanding distances between objects or spaces
  • Difficulty with proper word choice or having normal conversations
  • Forgetting and misplacing important objects
  • Changes in judgment in decision making; making abnormal or poor decisions
  • Avoidance of social interactions
  • Overall change in personality or sudden mood swings

If any of the above warning signs are apparent in the behavior of a fellow nurse or you, Alzheimer’s could be negatively affecting important brain functions.

Nurses with Dementia Allowed to Keep Working in Great Britain

Regardless of the risks of dementia, The Royal College of Nursing in Great Britain has recently agreed to allow nurses with dementia to continue working. The approval was made due to the argument that simple adjustments can be made to daily tasks for nurses with dementia in order to support them do their job safely and effectively.

Many people involved with the decision voiced their concerns regarding conflicts with discrimination laws and issues with patient safety. Administration officials said that they want nurses with dementia to be honest with their employers instead of hiding their condition for fear of losing their positions.

Jo James, a nurse who treats patients with dementia in London, mentioned in the debate that a nurse with dementia recently was employed at the hospital where she works. Despite her condition, the nurse has been exceptional at fulfilling the requirements of her job and has gotten nothing but positive feedback since she became a part of the nursing team.

Prior to being approved to treat patients, all nurses are required to go through a serious of tests to see if they can safely and properly handle a number of nursing tasks. Not every nurse with dementia is considered incapable of being a great nurse. They are often assigned specific tasks that they can best perform with their condition. The Royal College of Nursing has agreed that if a nurse with dementia passes the required tests, proving that he or she can do an exceptional job caring for patients, the nurse should be allowed to continue working.

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