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Dedicated nurse commended for reaching finals of prestigious awards

A nurse who has dedicated her career to supporting people living with dementia has reached the finals of the prestigious Nursing Times Awards.

Image representing Dedicated nurse commended for reaching finals of prestigious awards

A nurse who has dedicated her career to supporting people living with dementia has reached the finals of the prestigious Nursing Times Awards.

Caroline Ashton-Gough, dementia clinical nurse specialist at The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust, was a finalist for the Nurse of the Year category of the awards in recognition of her work making a difference for the elderly, people living with dementia, vulnerable patients, their families and carers.

While Caroline did not scoop the accolade at the awards ceremony at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London, reaching the finals is a fantastic achievement.

Caroline has worked to build up a range of measures in the hospital care setting, and is also active in raising awareness among the public of issues affecting the elderly. Outside work, she's working to attain a Doctorate in health research at the University of Hertfordshire, looking at the effect of delirium when superimposed on dementia, supporting carers, plus she also volunteers for the Alzheimer's Society.

Caroline is an invaluable support for elderly patients in the hospital, with a particular focus on the specialist Gibberd Ward which cares for the frail elderly, patients with dementia and also patients who are at the end of life. She has helped develop a team of dementia champions whose role is not only to support these patients but to achieve wider understanding of their needs and experiences. Caroline has vigorously promoted alongside volunteers and staff the creation of a sensory garden for Gibberd Ward patients, contributing to fundraising and supporting the volunteers who have developed the wonderful tranquil space for patients to enjoy. Aware of the effectiveness of music therapy in people living with dementia, after initial support from Martyn Barter, a volunteer from the Alzheimer's Society, she has organised weekly 'singing for memories' sessions for patients in the hospital. This is now supported by volunteers from PAH.

In her years as a nurse, Caroline has gained a real understanding of issues that affect people at a vulnerable time. One debilitating condition is delirium, which can affect people at various times, particularly when undergoing certain treatment and in people living with dementia. In order to increase understanding of the condition, Caroline organised a community learning event attended by 150 clinicians and therapists working in hospitals and in the community.

Outside her hospital work, Caroline has been an ardent promoter of understanding of the various needs of elderly patients. Her work has led to invitations to speak at a host of national events, including the Royal Collage of Nursing Congress event in Liverpool and the RCN Delirium Champions Event at the RCN Headquarters in London.

Her nomination stated: "She's a campaigner, an educator and a researcher but first and foremost she is a nurse who displays the utmost compassion for her patients and colleagues. She has dedicated her life and career to her patients and has shown unwavering commitment to enhancing dementia care specifically."

Caroline said: "It was a wonderful evening and I was honoured to have been invited to attend. I am passionate about caring for people living with dementia and it has been a great boost to be recognised for my work to support our patients."

Sharon McNally, director of nursing, midwifery and allied health professionals, at The Princess Alexandra Hospital Trust, said: "Caroline's genuine compassion and care is outstanding. She is a really wonderful asset in our hospital and a great support for our patients and their families. She always goes far above and beyond her duties and her quiet energy and dedication are an inspiration to everyone. I am extremely proud of Caroline for all of her hard work to improve patient experience."

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