"I didn’t know you could train to become a Learning Disability nurse!" - a statement often made when asked what field of nursing I am studying, also a statement I admit to having said several years ago. Having left school knowing I wanted to work with people with learning disabilities but only discovering the opportunity years later, when working as a support worker. Often wondering, for those who wanted to become nurses to support individuals with learning disabilities where their journey began. In the two years I have been on the learning disability nursing degree programme, I have been made aware of the many different paths people have taken to get to their goals. I have a huge amount of respect and admiration for those who have for many years pushed for changes in a world of struggles and difficulties for individuals with learning disabilties.
I was often told by those around me I was set to be a nurse, going through school with plans for university. "When I’m older I want to become", said by many children and mine always finished with "make people happy" or "help someone when they need me." From a young age, I have wanted to help those who come across difficulties, my mum reporting that I spent my childhood finding some way to make things better. I’d often be sat with the child who was upset because they had tripped over grazing their knee, or one of the other children had said something mean. My mum would often ask who I was talking to, my answer more often than not was "I’m not sure, but they looked upset".
When leaving school, I had the opportunity to work as a support worker with individuals with learning disabilities. This opportunity began shaping my knowledge, with the options of adult, child or mental health nursing not feeling quite right. Having the opportunity to support individuals with learning disabilties has taught me so much. I soon realised I was in a career that was inspirational, sometimes challenging, frustrating, often with many obstacles to overcome, but more often than not fullfilling, trusting, inclusive and most of all supportive. Whilst in this role I met a learning disability nurse, I asked so many questions, needing to know how and where I should apply. Following this conversation, I attended an open day at the university and applied to study the BSc (hons) Nursiing: Learning Disabilties degree couse at the Univerisity of South Wales.
Welcoming the start of my third and final year of my degree programme, I admit without shame I once said, "I didn’t know you could become a learning disability nurse", because I am grateful for the opportunities such as my job as a support worker. Within this role I secured a foundation of knowledge, seeing many situations where individuals faced struggles to access services everyone should be able to access without prejudice. Why do healthcare services need learning disabilities nurses? Those who ask this question, have never sat with an individual in an accident and emergency waiting room, an individual who struggled with anxieties rarely sat in a seat for fear of the world moving around them, being told by the receptionist they would have to wait just like everyone else. They never had to have a discussion with a radiologist who insisted on repeating complicated instructions of a procedure a second time but only louder... Learning disability nurses carry skills that many may overlook, bridging gaps that shouldn’t be there to begin with. Their role is often to educate those within healthcare services of the needs and challenges faced by those with learning disabilities to ensure their health needs are met.
When someone says to me "I didn’t know you could become a learning disability nurse", I often give the answer, "Yes! Where I’m concerned it is the best option." Many people I have worked with as a support worker often hear about the Learning Disability nursing course, as I often tell them learning disability nursing is an opportunity they need to take, and one they will never regret. A career opportunity that should be grabbed with both hands, whilst remembering when you are passionate that your career isn’t just work but a life choice.
Siobhan Muir (2nd year student learning disability student at USW).
There are places available on the BSc (hons) Nursing: Learning Disabilties course for September 2018 intake. There are no fees payable, and a bursary is available.
For more information please contact Rachel Morgan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Furher information can be found at: https://www.southwales.ac.uk/courses/bachelor-of-nursing-honslearning-disabilities/