I am going to be completely honest, and tell you that studying to become a Learning Disability Nurse was not my first choice, but it is without a doubt my BEST choice.
I reflect and find it unbelievable that the learning disability nursing course was not my first choice, as I originally applied for midwifery but only made it as far as the reserve list so I joined this course through clearing and I have never looked back.
I was already working supporting individuals with a learning disability, which was a job I very much loved and had talked about this in my university application. I also have personal experience of supporting a close family member who has a learning disability alongside epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. I discussed this with the University of South Wales admissions team, and they directed me to learning disability nursing, as I was not aware that it existed up until that point. I then attended an interview at the university and was offered a place on the course. I now knew all the about the course and I was so excited to be starting and eventually I would get to qualify as a learning disability nurse.
However, as excited as I was, I did have some anxieties. I am a mum, at the time, to a two-year-old and six-year-old; I was questioning could I balance full time study and being a mum? Am I abandoning my family? Am I too old? Do I live too far away? However, I soon overcame my nerves and the obstacles I was putting in my way and turned up on the first day where I met several other people who all had a passion to make a difference, and values that I admired. This instantly reassured me that I could do this and that this was absolutely the right course for me.
I am now at the end of my second year and can honestly say I have loved every minute of the course. The challenges have made me a much more organised person and a person who loves to learn. I never thought I would be saying this, as I am the person who left school to work at the earliest possible point not sitting much needed exams, something I always regretted. After my second child, I decided I would rectify this and enrolled on to the 'access to nursing' course. I loved the course, excelled at it, and had amazing grades, which surprised me as I always had the belief that education was beyond me!
I look forward to what the third year will bring, and again cannot believe I am saying this, but I cannot wait to get stuck into my dissertation (I am already planning my time and researching). So many people have inspired me during this course from the lectures at the university, the mentors in practice but most of all the individuals that learning disability nurses care for and support. I have been fortunate to have a wide variety of placements, all of which I believe have enhanced my learning experiences. There is one placement that stands out for me, the placement was with the Powys Community Learning Disability Team, the nurses there were fantastic, the care was person centred, the nurses had a fantastic value base that was embedded in to their practice and they were supportive of students and their development. I cannot wait to return to the team in my third year of study.
This course has been a life changer. I will never look back, only forward into a career I just know I am going to love. There are two messages that I would like people to take from this blog. Firstly, that learning disability nursing is a profession and in my opinion is the BEST profession. Secondly, that if you do not get the grades you hope for or you need tomorrow, you always have choices and like me, you never know it could be your BEST choice.
Catherine Davies (2nd year student at University of South Wales)
There are still places available to study BSc (hons) Nursing: Learning Disablities Nursing for September 2018 intake. Please contact Rachel Morgan (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more info.
You can also find more info via the USW website: https://www.southwales.ac.uk/courses/bachelor-of-nursing-honslearning-disabilities/