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Dementia: nursing students care for people with: a community partnership to help prepare the University of New Brunswick Saint John.

According to the World Health Organization (2012), dementia is one of the greatest public health challenges of the 21st century. The incidence of dementia in Canada is estimated at one new case every five minutes, and by 2038, a new case will be identified every two minutes (Alzheimer's Society of Canada, 2010). With this projected increase in the number of people with dementia, it is likely that future nurses will be responsible for caring for this population, regardless of the practice setting. To this end, it is imperative that nurse educators create opportunities for nursing students to develop the necessary skills to care for people with dementia.

Preparing future nurses to care for this special group of people presents unique challenges as quality dementia care extends beyond knowledge and skills; care delivery must embody empathy and sensitivity. Experts in the health-care field assert that the development of empathy and sensitivity in practitioners promotes quality care, and may help to minimize anxieties and stressors that are often experienced when providing care to people with dementia (Cahill, O'Shea & Pierce, 2012; Zimmerman, Shier & Saliba, 2014).

In an effort to prepare students to provide quality dementia care, University of New Brunswick (UNB) Saint John nursing faculty have obtained certification and purchased a license to deliver the Virtual Dementia Tour[R] to their nursing students. The Virtual Dementia Tour[R] is a simulated learning experience developed and patented by Second Wind Dreams Inc.--its primary goal is to build sensitivity and awareness towards people with dementia. The Virtual Dementia Tour[R] was created by award-winning geriatric specialist and Founder of Second Wind Dreams, P.K. Beville M.S. The Virtual Dementia Tour[R] ( The Virtual Dementia Tour[R] helps students understand dementia from a person's perspective, allowing faculty to integrate theory learned in the classroom setting with a simulated experience.

The nursing faculty partnered with management and staff of Loch Lomond Villa nursing home in Saint John to deliver the program. The University's Department of Nursing & Health Sciences has a well-established partnership with Loch Lomond Villa. This nursing home has served as a clinical practice setting for Bachelor of Nursing (BN) students for several years and has participated in and contributed to a number of research projects conducted by UNB graduate students and faculty. Similar to past experiences, Loch Lomond Villa welcomed the opportunity to help educate future nurses about dementia.

The Virtual Dementia Tour[R] was offered to students as part of an introductory communication course that included content on how to communicate with individuals with cognitive and sensory impairments. The course is followed by a clinical practice experience in a gerontological setting. Students who participated in the tour were required to wear physical and sensory altering equipment while completing a series of everyday tasks. Although some of the students had first-hand experience with dementia prior to The Virtual Dementia Tour[R], others did not. Students who participated in The Virtual Dementia Tour[R] were surprised by the difficulties they encountered following clear instructions and completing everyday tasks. In a post-assessment of their experience, the vast majority of students admitted to feeling frustrated or anxious after completing the Virtual Dementia Tour[R] but believed the experience helped them to become sensitive to the everyday challenges people with dementia face. Student feedback about the event included comments such as "I don't even understand how people are able to live with dementia", "I was very surprised at how scared and anxious I felt in that room and how upset I got", and "It's hard to believe what they go through. I understand better now why they get frustrated." This feedback validates faculty perceptions of the effectiveness of the program in helping to prepare students to deliver quality care to people with dementia.

When approached by nursing faculty about developing a partnership to deliver the Virtual Dementia Tour[R], management and staff at Loch Lomond Villa were enthusiastic about sharing their resources and expertise with nursing students. Both partners recognized the tour as a positive strategy to achieve a common goal: quality care for those with dementia. Sharing resources contributed to shaping the necessary values and skills of the students who will someday become the care providers. Having the Virtual Dementia Tour[R] situated in the nursing home environment contributed to the authenticity and necessity of developing attributes of empathy and sensitivity for those with dementia.


Alzheimer Society of Canada (2010). The rising tide: the impact of dementia on Canadian society. Toronto, ON: Alzheimer Society of Canada; 2010.

Cahill, S., O'Shea, E., & Pierce. M. (2012). "Creating excellence in dementia care: A research review for Ireland's national dementia strategy." Retrieved from 306721/1/CreatingExcellencein DementiaCare2012.pdf

Second Wind Dreams (nd). Virtual Dementia Tour [R]. Retrieved from www.secondwind. org/virtual-dementia-tour/

World Health Organization (2012). Dementia: a public health priority. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization. Retrieved from dementia_report_2012/en/

Zimmerman, S., Shier, V., & Saliba, D. (2014). Transforming nursing home culture: evidence for practice and policy. The Gerontologist, 54 (S1), S1-S5.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The authors would like to express their appreciation to all staff at Loch Lomond Villa for their willingness to accommodate nursing students. To Dr. Linda Yetman, Shelley Shillington and Cindy Donovan for helping to prepare and deliver the event. Kerri Gillies, Kathleen McWhinney, Dr. Lisa Keeping-Burke, Cynthia Bonnar, Anne Timms, Paulette Meister and Shauna Figler for assisting with the delivery of the Virtual Dementia Tour[R].
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Author:McCloskey, Rose; Furlong, Karen; O'Brien-Larivee, Cathy
Publication:Info Nursing
Geographic Code:1CNBR
Date:Mar 22, 2015
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