Amazingly i’ve been qualified 20 years next month as an RNLD, when I qualified I was classed as an RNMH, I completed the Project 2000 nursing and we were often called 'projys', (not particularly flattering). I was 19 when starting my nursing course in October 1995 and I had waited a whole long year to get on the course. But my reason for choosing this path was cemented long before this new journey I was about to begin.
This started with my childhood friend who lived just two doors away from me and i’ve known all my life, Cheryl was my usual friend in the street the same as all the rest of us as far as I was concerned. I knew she had seizures and I knew she was what we called then ‘mentally handicapped’ (thank god that term changed.) We played hide and seek the same and picked blackberries for our Mam’s to make tart with. When she didn’t know something I would try and teach her, but this doesn’t amount nearly as much as to how much she was teaching me. I absolutely knew from a very young age that I wanted to do things to help people like my friend Cheryl, I didn’t necessarily know how to go about it but found myself in the careers office at 18 saying I want to work with people with mental handicap and I then found myself embarking on this nursing course.
20 years on I haven’t really looked back and was never under any doubt that this was the right role for me, it fulfilled ambition but also meant I was true to my heart. There is not a day goes by when i’m not reminded of why I chose my career path, I just think of my childhood and lots of happy memories of playing in my street with friends, and Cheryl and her Mam are fully aware she is my inspiration for my being a nurse.
I’ve worked both acute assessment and treatment and community and my current role is Lead Clinical Nurse in the Merthyr Community Learning Disability Health Team, I work with some pretty awesome people and no two days are the same which is why I still love it.
If someone has touched your life in this way then I would wholeheartedly recommend a career as a learning disability nurse, it’s pretty special to be involved in making a difference to people’s lives.
Suzanne Hawkins - Lead Clinical Community Nurse ABMUHB
You can train to become a Learning Disability Nurse at University of South Wales, you can find more information on the USW website: https://www.southwales.ac.uk/courses/bachelor-of-nursing-honslearning-disabilities/
You can also contact Rachel Morgan - Specialist Lead for Learning Disability Nursing via email: