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Be Inspired Series

Bernadine McCrory

Director
Alzheimer's Society Northern Ireland

Bernadine McCrory believes nothing is impossible - there's always a way around things

What does your job entail?

I am responsible for the strategic leadership and management of Alzheimer's Society in Northern Ireland, a national charity working in Northern Ireland, England and  Wales. Alzheimer's Society has approximately 80 staff working here offering information and support, individual and group through the national dementia helpline, on-line access, face to face visits, information programmes, peer support groups, friendship groups, and Dementia Cafes/Activity Clubs.

Is it 9-5?

No, many of the services we provide and the networking opportunities are in the evening. This time always proves to be a great way of meeting people, often in a more informal setting. I also travel to London approximately once a month so this involves an overnight stay.

How did you get into this line of work?

About 20 years ago I started working in a nursing home that provided care for people with dementia. I loved working with this group of people it made sense to develop my career in this field.

Outline your career to date?

I started a computer studies course in the North West College but after six months left when an opportunity came up to go to Brussels to work as a nanny. After a year I was accepted to general nursing and trained in Tyrone County Hospital in Omagh. 

I left nursing for about four years and opened a bridal shop in Omagh. An interesting experience, but some hard lessons were learnt as it was during the last recession in the late 1980s. 

On my return to nursing I started in dementia care and have worked in both the North and South of Ireland in the statutory, private and voluntary sectors.

Four years ago I joined Alzheimer's Society as a service improvement business development manager, which was a hugely varied and interesting post. Last year an opportunity arose for an "acting up" position to director level which I was successful in attaining. When the post was advertised earlier this year on a permanent basis I gave it my best shot!

Tell us about your qualifications/training

I am a Registered General Nurse and through the years I have gained counselling certificates, a diploma in health studies and a post graduate diploma in health and social care management.

What qualities are required for your job - personal and professional?

I think that personally you need to believe in the cause you are working for and enjoy being with people. Everyday I need to ask the question, "how will my work help people with dementia and their carers and families?"

Professionally, the role requires good communication skills and the ability to think outside the box. It is important to have professional confidence in yourself and others around you. 

What is the best advice you ever received?

Believe in yourself. 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I am part of an amateur dramatic group in Drumquin and enjoy it immensely. Recently I took up cycling. If you sit in a car as much as I do, you need something to stretch the legs.

Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.

I have trekked in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains.

Who has inspired you most in your life?

My mother - she was widowed very young and left to raise four girls. Mum continued to work as a nurse, kept on dad's business for a number of years and at the age of 50 retrained as a social worker. 

On retiring at 55, she realised she was not ready and returned to work, ironically for Alzheimer's Society. It is Mum's forward thinking and energy that inspires me most - no situation is impossible, there is always a way around things.

* The National Dementia Helpline is 0300 222 1122.

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