My job

My job: nursing lecturer and disability contact, Jo Lay

Jo Lay explains why a coffee with Alan Tyne, author of The principle of normalisation: a foundation for effective services, was a pivotal moment in her training.

Jo Lay is nursing lecturer and disability contact in the School of Healthcare, University of Leeds.

Jo Lay

What is your job?

For 15 years I've been a lecturer at the University of Leeds. I started as a lecturer and practitioner with a practice base in the voluntary sector. We don't have a learning disability nursing programme, but I have been able to develop awareness training for other health and social care professionals.

I'm a panellist for the Nursing and Midwifery Council on its conduct and competence committee and health committees.

Why did you become a nurse?

When I left school, I knew I wanted to support people with a learning disability. At age 11, I met a neighbour with Down’s syndrome who wanted to be friends but I was scared of him.

My parents introduced me to social groups such as the PHAB club, encouraging inclusivity for people of all ages and abilities. It challenged my stereotypes. After a careers interview I enquired about nursing programmes, liked what I saw, and have never looked back.

Where did you train?

At the University of Essex in Colchester on one of the first Project 2000 programmes. The work of Wolf Wolfensberger and Jean Vanier inspired me, as well as John O'Brien and Alan Tyne [authors of The Principle of Normalisation: a Foundation for Effective Services].

A colleague and I were excited to find Alan Tyne lived locally and delighted when he agreed to meet us for coffee.

What do you most enjoy about your job?

I love seeing the diversity of roles that learning disability nurses have taken in my local area, showing the skills and knowledge so necessary to support people to achieve positive health outcomes. The Get Me Better Champions are examples of this.

What is the greatest challenge?

The future of learning disability nursing. We need to discuss nurse training and how it is funded as such a large proportion of the service sits outside of the NHS. The Learning Intellectual Disability Nursing Academic Network UK , which I chair, is working hard as a key stakeholder in discussions for the future.

What would you change if you could?

Seeing learning disability nursing pre-registration programmes more evenly spread across England. Currently some large cities and counties have no direct access to this workforce.

Outside work what do you enjoy doing?

Being with my family. I met my husband when we were nursing students and we have two children who are now 18 and 11. My parents, grandmother and most of my siblings are close by, which is great. I also frequent the odd gin festival. I love singing and belong to a choir called Sally’s Army.

What, or who, inspires you?

I'm a developing lover of social media and am Facebook friends with legends such as John O'Brien. My current favourite is Chatty Natty posts from The Goleniowska Family on Facebook blog Downs Side Up.   

What achievement makes you most proud?

The continuing growth of the Positive Choices conference [now in its 12th year]. It is the most phenomenal movement with awesome people. It never fails to put a smile on my face and is a fantastic platform for recognising the privilege of being a learning disability nurse.

What qualities make a good nurse?

Start and finish with excellent communication and interpersonal skills.

What advice would you like to pass on to students and junior staff?

Believe in what you do. Your work may get tough, but you don't have to look far for inspiration to remind you why you wanted to pursue this career.

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