I have to say, I ‘fell’ into Learning Disability Nursing. I wanted to be a nurse from a very young age but having fainted at the age of 11 when I looked at an x-ray of my broken arm, I didn’t think this was the right path for me. Further fainting episodes during blood tests confirmed this.
I coasted along with my GCSEs and A-Levels toying with the idea of psychology but never really felt this was my true vacation. After finishing my A-Levels I took up a summer job on a local play scheme. My role was to integrate a young boy with learning disabilities into a mainstream play scheme. Supporting this young boy and watching him make new friends gave me a real sense of satisfaction. Why shouldn’t he?
I was asked to stay on with the local authority as a support worker following this. Again my role was to support young adults with learning disabilities to participate in community activities. I felt that I was heading towards a job where I really fitted. Ensuring people with learning disabilities experienced the same opportunities as myself became a real drive for me and I knew I wanted more.
After chatting to my mother about this she said, "You know you can be a nurse in learning disabilities, don’t you?" BINGO! I knew this was for me!
I went for my interview in August 1997 and within 2 weeks I was starting Project 2000. This wasn’t always an easy ride but I was determined to stick with it. I wanted to be a learning disability nurse and make a difference!
After qualifying I very proudly secured a job as a Staff Nurse in Hensol Hospital. As this hospital was nearing closure I was met with, "Why do you want to do this, don’t you know the hospital is closing?"
But the thing with learning disability nursing is that the roles are so varied and I’ve certainly experienced many of them. Having worked in a long stay hospital, Assessment and Treatment Unit, Continuing Health Care Bungalow and Community Nursing I have developed many skills. I’ve also had the privilege to meet some fantastic people, both the people I have supported and colleagues.
Very early on in my training I remember having a conversation with my mother while I was on a trauma and orthopaedic ward. I told her that ‘there should be learning disability nurses working in general hospitals.’ I even tried to convince my auntie who worked in outpatients at the time to put a proposal forward for this.
Health facilitation has always been a passion of mine and I worked hard to ensure people with learning disabilities received equal healthcare whichever role I was in. I was extremely lucky to secure my dream job two years ago as a Learning Disability Liaison Nurse. I work with a fantastic colleague (and now friend) who shares the same values as myself and together we do our best to ensure access to secondary care is improved for people with learning disabilities. I’ve been exposed to those clinical situations that I previously feared but think that if people with learning disabilities are brave enough to do it with a sometimes lack of understanding then so can I!
This role has probably been the most challenging and rewarding in equal measures. But being fortunate to be in a position to make a real difference for someone with a learning disability is the most rewarding thing.If anyone is contemplating a careers in learning disability nursing I would strongly recommend it, I would never want to be anything else!
I’m just glad my mother knew about learning disability nursing…
Joanne King (nee Edwards) - Learning Disability Liaison 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: