Hi, my name is Jay and I am a second year Learning Disabilities student nurse at University South Wales. I have been asked to write a blog about my experiences so far on my course. I knew straight away I had to write about my West Wales placement as even though I have had other fabulous placements since this one, it is still the one that stands out and truly shows just how amazing Learning Disability Nursing can be.
I had volunteered to do a placement somewhere in West Wales after hearing a talk at the Open Day about rural nursing (really what I heard was Folly Farm every weekend ;-)) I never dreamed it would be in my first year never mind my second placement. My first reaction was thinking could I do this? 6 weeks away from home living with three second years whom I’d never met? And I was placed in community when all I had ever known was NHS residential services which was where I came from and was placed for my first placement. But not one to back down and ready for student digs I packed my car and set off for the far-off land of Carmarthen.
I had a lovely welcome from all three of the second years, those girls looked after me whilst I’ve been on placement, and the accommodation was definitely not student digs, but a 4-bedroom converted barn! The views on the doorstep took my breath away for 6 weeks and I have just got used to the view of the Civic Centre in Newport again instead of sheep.
My first Monday came and I felt ready for my first day of placement, it helped that one of the second years, Lydia, was already in place and knew the way. I met with my mentor Teresa and she already had a full timetable ready for me having already booked me slots with most of the team including both the health and the social side. The Ceredigion team took me under their wing, and not just the nurses, but the whole team. They’re based in Llandysul and cover the whole of Ceredigion.
I learnt so much on my placement there and had the opportunity to take part in so many things from hydrotherapy to funding meetings. Every department took the time to have a chat with me about what their job entails, how they fit in with the team and the different processes they use. If they had an interesting meeting and I had a free space, they were more than happy for me to attend. I also travelled so many miles my poor car doesn’t know what is going on, I averaged 80 miles per day but with the views and countryside you don’t notice the miles just the time it takes to get there. I can get home quicker to Newport from Carmarthen than I can from Aberystwyth to Carmarthen but then like I said the views on the Coast Road and inland more than make up for the extra time.
Speech and Language therapists kindly gave me an introduction to Total Communication and allowed me to join the group at Cardigan day centre which I really enjoyed, and still try to use SignAlong now, I have also attended talking mats training; which I had not heard of until then. Physios have taken me to hydrotherapy and I got to experience at Rebound which I really enjoyed. Occupational Therapists and Physio also let me tag along for a meeting at Star College in Cheltenham, I hadn’t heard of Star College before and I was so impressed by it, I just wonder why there aren’t more of them about. The Positive Behavioural Intervention Support team took me in and gave loads of information on the background of their department and how they carry out assessments which will really help me going on with my studies.
My mentor Teresa really made my placement memorable and took me so many different places with different opportunities for Learning Disabilities it made me realise that I didn’t know half of what was available to them; I got to be involved in carrying out assessments and seeing what goes on behind the scenes. I feel Teresa gave me a good base of knowledge that I have continued to build on throughout my time and I will continue to build on throughout my nursing career.
I would recommend this course to anyone who has an interest in Learning Disability Nursing, it gives so many opportunities to expand your knowledge and experience. We really are specialist nurses with transferable skills and I am proud to be a part of the nursing family.
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) via email: firstname.lastname@example.org