Celebrating the work of learning disability nurses

There must be no better celebration of what it means to choose to be a learning disability nurse than the Positive Choices conference.

The annual event is aimed at nursing students – helping them to network and improve their knowledge of the profession, and reinforce their commitment about why they made the positive choice to opt for this field of practice. This year’s event was no exception with an array of entertainment and learning on offer.

Drop-out concerns

There is concern about a decline in degree places for learning disability nursing, with figures showing that undergraduate programmes have either decreased or remained unchanged at 21 of the 24 universities in England in the last two academic years. In nursing generally, there is also concern about attrition – particularly since the abolition of the bursary – to encourage students not to drop out of their courses.

Positive Choices aims to sprinkle some enthusiasm, if needed, onto nursing students who have chosen a tough field of practice. As chief nursing officer for England Jane Cummings told them we need all of you and more of you.

Champion efforts 

Melanie Davies, who trained as a general nurse, took up the challenge of working with people who have learning disabilities after the death of Paul Ridd on ward G at Morriston Hospital in Swansea in 2009. She joined as ward sister the following year and describes being horrified at what had happened, and vowed that such a thing would not happen again on her ward, in her hospital and in her health board.

She set about transforming the care of people with learning disabilities and has developed packs, training programmes, and a network of learning disability champions. Her efforts have been recognised as she has just been awarded the most prestigious accolade in the profession – RCN Nurse of the Year 2017.