I am the perfect example of somebody who didn't know that Learning Disability nursing existed, and perhaps for me, early opportunities were missed...However, luckily for me, I have now found my vocation and I am so excited about my future career!
Like many young people I didn’t really have any idea what I wanted to do when I was older... I wasn’t the most academic at school and found it hard to keep focused in class. At the awkward age of 16 I was moved from Manchester to beautiful West Wales by my parents, although to be honest I didn’t look at it as beautiful West Wales at the age of 16. In Manchester, I had already secured myself a place on the Health and Social Care course in college so my mother had arranged for me to do the same course in the local college in West Wales. I didn’t really know what career I wanted but was advised in school that a course like Health and Social Care could open doors to many different career paths. I had originally showed an interest in Social Work, as for many years I had grown up alongside children in care but was advised that getting onto a Social Work course in university at such a young age may prove difficult, as relevant experience is usually required.
When I arrived in West Wales during the summer waiting to start my new course, in a new college, in a new Country with none of my friends around me, the awkwardness of my age had already began to show. The only people I knew was my family, and my uncle who at the time worked for the Princes Trust arranged for me to take part in one of their summer camps. This involved being a one to one support worker for a child with a learning disability, helping to encourage and support them to take part in the activities the camp had arranged. I absolutely loved it! I enjoyed it so much that I returned home after my first day to tell my parents I wanted to work with people with learning disabilities.
I then started my college course, and was advised by one of the college tutors to make an appointment with the college careers adviser to start planning the next step of university. I told the adviser about my initial intentions of Social Work, she also felt this would be a difficult path to follow and asked if I had any interest in other careers such as nursing. Most of my class had already shown an interest in adult nursing, however, this did not interest me at all. I began to tell her about my summer and the time I had spent with people with learning disabilities. After some discussion, she suggested that I could become a special needs teacher. I had never thought of teaching before but had done lots of work experience in a school environment. She did some research and recommended that I did an education and social inclusion course at university, and then maybe teacher training. She felt that this would allow me better opportunity to work with children with additional needs, which I knew I enjoyed so much. I was happy with this plan, and focused on becoming a special needs teacher...Perhaps at this point if I had known about the Learning Disability course and career pathway, my career would of been decided sooner. Did the careers adviser at the time know about Learning Disability nursing? I don’t know, but luckily for me, the degree I obtained and the job opportunities that subsequently followed, have it have led me here today - I am just about to go in to my third and final year of a Learning Disability nursing degree course... And I’m very glad it has!
We need to ensure that Learning Disability nursing is promoted as far and as wide as possible, so that recruitment opportunities are not missed. Hopefully we can all do something to ensure that our vocation is being talked about. After all, we are all, or not far off becoming, PROUD Learning Disability nurses!
Leanne Bateman (2nd year Learning Disabilities Nursing student at USW).
There are still places available for BSc (hons) Learning Disabilities for September 2018, if you would like further information, please contact Rachel Morgan (firstname.lastname@example.org).