At the age of 17 I was working as a very unhappy opticians receptionist, one day a group of people with learning disabilities came in with their carer to pick up their friends glasses. We hit it off straight away and this lovely group of people would pop into see me every week. The group asked me to visit them in their day service, I had such a great time, after one visit I decided to volunteer there on my day off. I loved every aspect of being with and supporting people with learning disabilities and I learnt so much about myself. I attended a volunteer training course where we had a talk from the local Senior Community Mental Handicap Nurse (what we were called then) that was when I knew I wanted to be a Mental Handicap Nurse…………………………I wanted her job!
On May 5th 1987, I started as a pupil nurse, and have never looked back. Very soon after qualifying I was able to do a conversion course becoming RNMH. I clearly remember being told, on more than one occasion during my training and on qualifying that there wouldn’t be jobs as people with learning disabilities didn’t need nurses, oh how wrong those people were. Since qualifying, I have discovered an enjoyment for education having undertaken Dip CHS (LD), completed BSc (Hons) nursing studies and MSc modules.
I have worked in long stay hospitals and assessment and treatment. However the majority of my career has been as a community nurse. Have had the privilege of supporting people with learning disabilities in a wide range of range of settings. I have had key roles in the long stay hospital resettlement programmes, supported young people through their transition into adulthood. I have been a clinical nurse, a nurse care manager.
I am passionate about reducing health inequalities faced by people with learning disabilities and was fortunate to have a secondment into primary care liaison, the outcomes of which have informed my current work in demonstrating the value of learning disability nursing as part of an RCN programme.
I have witnessed wonderful student nurses develop and move on into becoming incredible nurses, I’m excited about the difference they will make. I feel confident that the future of Learning Disability Nursing will be safe and protected in their hands and it has to be.
I am so proud to be a learning disability nurse, this is the most fantastic and rewarding career, I have met people with learning disabilities who have left indelible marks on my life, I’ve also made friends for life. I have worked with some of the most innovative and creative people.
There have been amazing days but also emotional days, I am still learning and improving.
I am so lucky to do a job I love, with the most fantastic people.
By the way………………….I went full circle and I got her job!
Paula Phillips - Lead Clinical Community Learning Disability 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:
Neath Port Talbot CLDT