This has probably been one of the most challenging yet satisfying year I have experienced in my twenty-eight years. I have laughed (a lot), cried (on occasions), and shared in others sense of injustice (especially about how they access and are treated by public services). Twelve-months ago I had no intentions of training as a nurse and now I am well on my way in my second academic year determined not only to complete the course but to make a difference in society.
To answer “did I choose learning disability nursing or did it choose me?” is not so straight forward. When I applied to Keele through admissions clearing I was totally unaware there was even a fourth field of nursing. In the days preceding my interview I solely prepared for Adult Nursing and at the time this seemed a logical activity since to most laypeople the stereotypical nurse is ward-based and all medication rounds, bed baths, wound care.
I remember the day vividly. There were a number of other applicants all nervous like myself. I am a garrulous sort of chap (I like to talk). So to ease my somewhat anxious disposition I began talking to student ambassadors present. One in particular stood out. She was passionate about nursing and tailoring her own approach not only to care for others but to enrich the lives of people she worked with (to ultimately empower them to make their own health decision). The sense of humanity and compassion was tangible.
Being impulsive I decided I wanted to be interviewed for what she was doing. As it happens I was interviewed for both Adult and Learning Disability Nursing. So why did I leave having accepted an offer to study learning disability nursing you must be wondering? During this whole process I spoke to both students and staffs asked numerous questions (and drank plenty of tea) and sided on the fact that If was going to be nurse I was most definitely going to work with and prioritise people.
Learning Disability Nursing truly places the person at the centre of activities. It adopts a life course approach as you deal with individuals of all ages; and whose practice is grounded in the therapeutic relationship and communication. In terms of scope it is interdisciplinary and found at the intersections of all other fields of nursing (adult, child, and mental) and also allied professions (such as occupational health and social work). In addition it is exciting and creative as to achieve positive outcomes for people it has to be responsive to their individual needs and informed by their personality.
This highly individualised approach is central to Learning Disability Nursing’s philosophy. Not only is it the only way of being able to engage effectively with a number of people; many of those who you do encounter experience daily challenges and discrimination. At risk of taking a paternalistic tone (which I am trying to avoid) it’s all about engaging and empowering these individuals to reach their full potential.
So initially I choose to study Learning Disability Nursing but over the past year it has chosen me. I was unsure when starting what to expect (as it’s not the most visible of field within the profession) but have gone from initial confusion to confidence. It changes you as a person. I have achieved so much more than just perform standard nursing care (which all nurses have to do during their training). To put it simply I have shared my first year with the people I have worked with; whether that’s been a positive experience (such as birthday celebration or an “all clear”) or negative (such as a funeral or an emergency hospital admission).
Shaun is a second year Learning Disability Nursing Student at Keele University, and enjoying every minute of it. He can be followed on twitter @Shaun_LDNurse.