A journey of self discovery

August 19, 2018

I remember my first day at University of South Wales as if it was yesterday.  It was the morning of the university’s annual Learning Disability Student Nurse conference.  The new students had been invited as we were due to start the course the following week.


I arrived nervously anticipating what I had started, worried I had made the wrong choice.  The new starters were all due to meet in a separate room, so we could all say hello to each other and be welcomed to the university.  I remember nervously walking down the centre of the room not knowing where to sit, wanting to hide at the back, until a smiling face called out… “come sit here, next to me”,I didn’t know it then but that was the moment I met the girl who has become one of my very best friends.


The conference was an informative day with lots of inspirational speakers, talking about the role of the learning disability nurse and the importance of networking, etc.  I enjoyed meeting some of the people I would be studying with and listened in awe of some of their experiences in working with people with learning disabilities.   I was anxious that I didn’t belong, I was only a mum – what did I know?


During the next few months of theory time, we all got to know each other a bit more.  I quickly learnt that we all had different back stories and varying reasons for joining the course.  I learnt to celebrate the differences, every class member had their own strengths, and all had something different to bring to the table.  My experience of being a mother to a child with learning disabilities was no less relevant than someone who had been a carer for several years.  We all have differing perspectives and views which make for interesting discussions, but one thing we all have in common was a strong values base and the desire to make a difference.


Being one of the more mature students I have found settling back into education is challenging at times, being the wrong side of 40 means I am a bit of a technology dinosaur but, luckily, I learn fast.  Having a family has presented its challenges too, we have had to adapt to new routines in the house and I’ve really refined my juggling skills in terms of managing my responsibilities.  I have had study sessions over WhatsApp with friends at 5am before the kids wake up, as well as staying up after they go to bed, particularly near assignment deadlines. 


I still have times when I wonder “What business did I have thinking I could do this?”  But these feelings are short-lived when I think back to the people I have met and supported during placements and the positive feedback I have had from mentors as well as the grades I have achieved.   All these things have made me the person I am today, I have developed a confidence that I never had before and that stems from being part of a very special group of peers, who inspire me to be the best me and support me when I am struggling.  I now know that I am following the right path, for me, and that all this will be worth it when I embark on a long and exciting career empowering people to be the best

they can be.



Paula Richardson - 2nd year student learning disability nurse at USW


If you think this may be the career for you, there are still spaces available to study BSc (hons) Nursing: Learning Disabilities at University of South Wales this September 2018.



For more information, please contact Rachel Morgan (rachel.morgan@southwales.ac.uk) 











they can be.

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