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Perspectives on the future of learning disability nursing careers

At a student-led workshop for the UK Strengthening the Commitment Conference held in Cardiff, 25 learning disability nurses expressed views on their indivudual careers.

At a student-led workshop for the UK Strengthening the Commitment Conference held in Cardiff, 25 learning disability nurses expressed views on their individual careers

A student-led workshop at the UK Strengthening the Commitment Conference asked participants four questions about learning disability nursing careers: what inspired you to become an learning disability nurse; where do you see yourself in five years time; what skills/knowledge will you need to develop your career; and what issues lie ahead for learning disability nurses? The 25 participants responded positively to the students questions.

What inspired you to become a learning disability nurse?

Previous experience was the main response, and most participants referred to personal experiences of being with people with a learning disability, while one said that attending an inclusive school shaped their career choice. Others were inspired to make a difference, and started

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At a student-led workshop for the UK Strengthening the Commitment Conference held in Cardiff, 25 learning disability nurses expressed views on their individual careers


Picture: David Gee

A student-led workshop at the UK Strengthening the Commitment Conference asked participants four questions about learning disability nursing careers: what inspired you to become an learning disability nurse; where do you see yourself in five years’ time; what skills/knowledge will you need to develop your career; and what issues lie ahead for learning disability nurses? The 25 participants responded positively to the students’ questions.

What inspired you to become a learning disability nurse?

Previous experience was the main response, and most participants referred to personal experiences of being with people with a learning disability, while one said that attending an inclusive school shaped their career choice. Others were inspired to ‘make a difference’, and started working as support workers, or ‘just fell into’ learning disability nursing. Such comments should raise questions about recruitment, for example could universities and health boards offer pre-course placement opportunities?

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

Demographic data would have been interesting, as the main response was retirement. But it was encouraging that these participants wanted to work in a different capacity with people with a learning disability once they retired. Most of those not planning to retire wanted to develop new skills, such as working across the lifespan, strengthening services between inpatients and the community, developing acute liaison services, consultancy, dementia care, and preventive services.  

What skills/knowledge will you need to develop your career?

Some nurses believed sharing knowledge between services, and across the UK, could be improved, while others wanted to complete MScs or PhDs. Participants were passionate about their desire to continue to learn. 

What issues lie ahead for learning disability nurses?

We asked participants to note one or two points in response to this, and the 47 points we received were grouped into three themes: workforce planning, meeting individual needs, and new roles. In relation to workforce issues, there was concern about the ageing workforce. Retirement could affect services because of potential loss of skills and knowledge, and fewer numbers of learning disability nurses could affect student placements. However, it was also noted that there are increasing numbers of learning disability nursing students in Wales and Scotland.

There was some concern, in terms of meeting individual needs, about changes in the relationship between health and social care, particularly for community learning disability nursing. Participants said being proactive, and promoting health, were vital aspects of learning disability nursing, but were concerned about funding priorities. Nurses were also mindful of constant change and the need to ensure practice is up to date.

Participants were enthusiastic about progress in learning disability services, and talked about specialist, consultant nurse, and nurse prescriber roles, as well as increased liaison with primary care and mental health services. However, they were concerned about generic nursing.

Final thoughts

This was an excellent opportunity for students to lead a workshop at a national conference, and the participants were supportive, willing to provide feedback and generate discussion. It was encouraging for students to listen to others’ perspectives, and they were inspired by the passion for developing learning disability nursing.  


About the authors

Ruth Wyn Williams is lecturer in nursing/lecturer in learning disability, Bangor University, Wales

 


Liz Gouveia is a third year learning disability nursing student, Bangor University, Wales

 


 

Lois Wiggins is a second year learning disability nursing student, Bangor University, Wales

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