A New Kind of Dementia Apprenticeship

Beth Britton, one of the U.K.’s leading campaigners on dementia, writes about her review of our new leadership apprenticeships in dementia care and what she loves most about these ground-breaking qualifications.

Here is what she wrote:

One of the areas of dementia care and support that I am most passionate about is education. As a former carer to my dad, I know that many of the health and social care staff who cared for him didn’t have the type of dementia education I now advocate and teach as a campaigner and consultant, and that would have made a big difference to the way my dad was supported.

Reviewing the 3 Spirit Dementia Apprenticeship Programmes

It is with my passion for dementia education in mind that I was delighted to work with 3 Spirit UK earlier this year to review their Level 4 Apprenticeship in Dementia for Lead Practitioners in Adult Care and their Level 5 Apprenticeship in Dementia for Leaders in Adult Care. I’ve known Caroline Bartle, who founded 3 Spirit, since 2014 when we met at the Alzheimer Europe Conference, and from following her work – predominately via social media – it’s clear how passionate she is about dementia education. The sheer volume of free resources 3 Spirit have created and shared over the years is testimony to that.

When Caroline approached me to review the 3 Spirit apprenticeships programme, she explained that through her doctorate she is looking at how practice can be impacted by learning interventions. This focus has become the driving force behind how the learning experience in these apprenticeships has been designed, and I was intrigued to find out more.

Why are these leadership apprenticeships so valuable?

Our experiences with my dad’s care, and my subsequent professional experiences as a consultant, have underlined to me the importance of good leadership in health and social care organisations. Investing in leaders informs the culture of care within organisations, and that directly impacts upon the people who depend on those care and support services and their wider families.

Of course the health and social care landscape is awash with training, but there are elements in the 3 Spirit apprenticeships that I find really exciting from a personal perspective. Most notably, that the Level 4 programme includes an Expert by Experience Month, which focuses heavily on meaningfully engaging with the creative arts (something my dad would undoubtedly have benefited from staff doing more with him), and that it’s intended (providing partnerships can be fostered with peer support organisations) that both Level 4 and Level 5 learners will be mentored by people living with dementia. 

I have always said that the greatest learning in dementia care comes from working with people living with dementia, and this type of mentoring is a really progressive step in dementia education. The Level 4 programme is also being delivered in partnership with the Life Story Network CIC, a connection I originally made for 3 Spirit and one that I am delighted to see has resulted in the type of joined-up working that is so important if we are to bring the best of what different organisations offer together rather than us all working in our own silos.

Making a Difference to Quality of Life

What else do I love about these apprenticeships? They have quality of life outcomes for people living with dementia and needing support at their heart, they have the aim of directly impacting the day-to-day practice of learners that will benefit those they are supporting (including each learner undertaking a service improvement project which is supported and mentored by the 3 Spirit team), they are about implementing progressive best practice that is rooted in compassionate approaches (in my view compassion is still so underrated in health and care services), and they take a holistic standpoint that supports the entire health or social care service that learners are working in.

As you’d expect, launching anything new in these unprecedented times means taking full account of how COVID-19 is impacting us all. The ongoing learning from the pandemic is included in the curriculum for apprentices, and 3 Spirit – like myself and most other training providers – are utilising digital platforms to ensure that training can be safe but also still provide that all important peer-to-peer learning.

At a time when it’s more vital than ever to retain valued practitioners and leaders within health and care services to support people living with dementia – who have been severely adversely affected by COVID-19 – these apprenticeships are, in my view, a really positive step forward for staff and service development. I also hope that they form a blueprint for training providers that means more widespread working with people living with dementia in the future.

About the author:

Beth Britton is an award-winning content creator, consultant, trainer, mentor, campaigner and speaker who is an expert in ageing, health and social care https://www.bethbritton.com

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