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Help in a crisis
Sandra Bailey

Sandra Bailey, Team Leader, East Suffolk Dementia Intensive Support Team

Sandra Bailey was appointed Team Leader of the East Suffolk Dementia Intensive Support Team (DIST) just one month after it was launched in the summer of 2012.

She heads a dozen-strong team, which includes nurses, occupational therapists and support workers who work together and with other agencies to prevent unnecessary admissions to Ipswich Hospital and to help people leave hospital as soon as possible with the right care and support.

"I enjoyed the challenge of setting up a new team, and supporting and developing my colleagues. I'm really proud to have such a dedicated, motivated and committed team.

"I still very much enjoy the clinical aspect of nursing – getting out to see people in their own homes, working with them and their families and, hopefully, leaving them in a better situation than when we first met. It's a privilege to be allowed into these people's lives and homes.

"We support families and carers and work with other agencies, such as GPs, Adult and Community Services and Community Healthcare Teams. The work can be very varied – you just don't know what referrals are going to come through the door!

"What I like about dementia nursing is that you get a variety of things to look at – it's not just dementia. People with dementia often have mental health issues also, such as depression, and we need to look at physical health issues and social care too.

"It's often the smaller things that can make the biggest difference to people with dementia and their families. To be able to talk to someone who they feel understands their plight and can provide them with an explanation for the changes they see in themselves or their loved one – a validation of what is happening for them – is often all that is needed.

"This is particularly welcomed when accompanied by simple practical advice on how to overcome some of the challenges or by making connections on their behalf with the right people when they feel they don't know where to turn or what help is available.

"I went straight from school into nurse training at Ipswich Hospital, which is where the DIST is based, qualifying in 1987 with only the nursing registration qualification. My mother was an HCA in the community and my grandmother experienced bouts of depression and for a brief period attended the day hospital at the now closed St Audry's Hospital in Melton, where I have also worked.

"I think these factors sparked my interest in health care and in mental health specifically. My entire nursing career has been spent in Suffolk and in mental health. General nursing has never appealed to me.

"I'm fortunate to have been supported to develop both clinically and academically by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, having been funded to complete my Master's degree in Clinical Practice. This summer I will complete my training as an Advanced Nurse Practitioner. It can be hard work but I do enjoy learning.

"My advice to newly-qualified nurses is the more you put into nursing, the more you get out of it. Be prepared for constant change and ongoing development. Nursing never stands still and there is always more to learn."