I gained insight and knowledge about learning disability nursing whilst working in a rehabilitation hospital. Previous to this I had no idea that learning disability nurses even existed! After 6 years working as a support worker and being promoted to senior support worker, I felt limited in my role with no real pathway to follow. In light of this, I decided to apply to become a learning disability nurse at University of South Wales, and to my excitement and suprise, I was offered a place...
I wanted to focus on becoming a learning disability nurse to continue working in the rehabilitation hospital for people with learning disabilities and mental health, not really giving much thought to what else may be available. However, whilst I am fast approaching my second year of training, I have realised that the role of a learning disability is really diverse and can take you down a lot of avenues. I have had the privilege of experiencing a vast variety of placement opportunities which have all offered me opportunities to develop new skills, knowledge and insight into what else is available to me on my career pathway.
In the first year of my nursing degree, I was given the opportunity to work with people with profound and multiple learning disabilities who had very limited communication skills. This taught me how to provide person centred care and give choice using non-verbal communication methods, I soon realised the importance of non-verbal communication skills - this placement allowed me to put theory into practice.
On placement in a special education school with children who had complex needs I developed skills and understanding around nasal-gastric feeding, epilepsy, percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy feeding and catheterisation. Especially understanding the importance of how to meet the complex needs of children with learning disabilities and physical health conditions to allow education and inclusion.
I also had the chance to experience community nursing in a multi-disciplinary learning disability team. This placement taught me how people with learning disabilities are supported to live independently or with family within their community. This placement gave me an insight into the health inequalities that people with learning disabilties face and how reasonable adjustments are facilated to imorove access.
My final placement in the first year, was a general placement on an orthopaedic ward. I enjoyed this placement as I had the opportunity to attend theatre to observe two surgical procedures. It was interesting to gain insight into adult field of nursing and it reiterated to me that I definitely wanted to continue to pursue a career as a learning disability nurse.
In my second year of training, my placements have continued to be diverse. I had a placement in a low secure hospital for people with mental health conditions and learning disabilities. This placement allowed me to develop a sound understanding of the Mental Health Act and different sections that people may be detained under. I also had oportunties to develop my understanding around mental capacity and best interest decisions.
I also undertook what is called a ‘round robin’ placement, which are shorter placements which incorporate a few different placements within a six or eight week period (usually up to two weeks each in length). One being a ward for people with dementia. This placement enhanced my understanding of dementia and cognitive impairment. I also attended an A&E department where I was able to develop my skills around wound care, resuscitation and general healthcare. My third two week placement was in a nursing home for people with acute mental illness, which gave me the opportunity to work with people who have high levels of anxiety and enhanced my de-escalation techniques. Then lastly, I was placed with the Youth Offending team which gave me insight into how the criminal justice system helps young people to live a life free of crime and how adverse childhood experiences may impact on the health of a young person.
I have just completed my last placement of year two in a prison. This placement has been extremely challenging and has peaked my interest into forensic nursing for people with learning disabilities. I observed how prisoners with learning disabilities are supported to overcome their difficulties through workshops and clinics to enable them to move back into the community without the risk of re-offending.
The most important aspect I have taken away from all my clinical placements is to advocate for people with learning disabilities. This promotes inclusion and citizenship in society and supports people with learning disabilities to make informed choices regarding their care and life.
Christine Fish - Student Learning Disabilties Nurse at University of South Wales
If you think this may be the career for you, there are still spaces available to study
BSc (hons) Nursing: Learning Disabilties at University of South Wales this September 2018.
For more information, please contact Rachel Morgan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
them to make informed choices regarding their care and life.