Today the All Wales Supporting Community Engagement Network hosted the Lived Experience Network at Swansea University, this is a collaboration of all universities in Wales. This event was being planned long before I started working at the University of South Wales, my predecessor Victoria Jones was heavily involved in this. As I was given the opportunity to lead on TRAC, our service user network (Teaching and Research Advisory Committee), I was also lucky enough to take over this element of Victoria’s role.
Presentations from Swansea and Cardiff were inspiring, the value of service user involvement was debated and commended. The way that service users are recruited, referred to and reinforced for their involvement, service, knowledge and experience was unpicked throughout the day. People shared their experiences, students, staff, carers and those at the heart of it, patients and the public. It was fantastic!
I co-presented at the conference with Philip, one of the founding members of TRAC and we shared our experiences of interviewing future student nurses for their place on the programme at USW. Giving information about what the benefits are to the student and the person with a learning disability who is a colleague and partner within the process. The presentation was very well received, despite some technical difficulties.
Philip and I met last week to plan the presentation and he was very much taking things in his stride while I was feeling uncertain, disorganised and a little bit anxious. I realised that although I have been a learning disability nurse lecturer for almost four years and an RNLD for nearly 15 I have never presented at a conference (shock horror!) and Philip has done this many more times than me, i.e. more than once!
The other thing that I have realised about myself and my career since moving into this role is that I have not had much experience of working with people who have verbal communication. In my career as a learning disability nurse I specialised in supporting those with challenging behaviour. Many of the people I worked with were non-verbal, a high proportion had severe learning disabilities and so I am in new territory. I am working with people in TRAC who are able to express their wants needs and wishes, using their own language. Co-presenting today was fantastic, Philip and I worked well together, he supported me with information I didn’t have, particularly in the Q&A session. Again I feel privileged to have been given this opportunity and I am still learning everyday.
In learning disability awareness week 2017 I have become even more aware of the diverse role of the
learning disability nurse, I have been faced with new challenges and forged new relationships. I also saw one of our first year student nurses presented with a prize for her poster presentation at the conference which she had also produced in easy read!
Just an LD Nurse? So much more!
Paula Hopes, RNLD
Learning Disability Team
Faculty of Life Sciences and Education
University of South Wales