One of my first real encounters with someone with learning disability was while I was on patrol in Afghanistan. I was a medic attached to an infantry regiment on a routine patrol when we stopped to chat to the locals. I was called over to chat to a father who asked for medical help with his daughter. His daughter had Down's Syndrome but he was unaware of what Down's Syndrome was. Equally I found myself struggling to explain the condition. This situation always stuck with me how uneducated I was about learning disabilities and the difficulties faced by individuals and their families living with a condition that is judged by society.
I left the Army after five years service and searched for work, I fell into working in social care. I started working for a charity called Sense, supporting people who are deaf and blind. I was apprehensive about the job thinking I was not going to like it. My first day I observed a gentleman who was deaf and blind independently get washed, dressed, make his own breakfast then later with support go to work in the local supermarket. I was absolutely astonished, and from that day on I was totally inspired by the people I was privileged enough to support. I wanted to learn as much as I could to help empower them.
Alongside working for Sense I worked as a healthcare assistant in the Emergency Department of a busy hospital. I observed the difficulties faced by individuals with learning disabilities when needing to access emergency medical treatment and the lack of understanding from some of the staff. I continued to work for Sense and took a job as a deputy manager of a residential home. This came with different challenges and responsibilities but my passion for promoting people's independence, choice and inclusion grew even stronger. I learnt so much from the individuals and other staff members I have been fortunate to work with.
After having my son I decided to move to Wales. I have chosen to utilise this natural break in my career to get qualified as a nurse. I enrolled on an access in College, it wasn't until I was on the access course I had heard of the role of a learning disability nurse. As I looked into the role further I felt this was the ideal job for me as it combined my two previous careers in health and social care. I got a place on the learning disability nursing course at the University of South Wales. I have just finished the first term of teaching I am really excited to start my first placement in a school and then an acute hospital.
Sophie Card if a first year learning disability nursing student at USW
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