Nursing studies

Learning disability nursing: correcting those who ask ‘Is it real nursing?’

Student and NHS ambassador Helen Morgan is challenging misunderstandings about her field

Student and NHS ambassador Helen Morgan is challenging misunderstandings about her field

Learning disability nursing student Helen Morgan is hoping to inspire the next generation of her chosen profession when she takes up a voluntary role as a nursing NHS ambassador.

Im honoured and excited. Its a very special opportunity, says Ms Morgan, who is in the second year of her degree in learning disability nursing at the University of Northampton.

I want to get the word out about what a great career this is and the opportunities you have to make a difference.

Work experience in a care home ignited her passion

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Student and NHS ambassador Helen Morgan is challenging misunderstandings about her field

Nursing student Helen Morgan is ready to challenge misunderstandings about learning disabilities. Picture: Alamy

Learning disability nursing student Helen Morgan is hoping to inspire the next generation of her chosen profession when she takes up a voluntary role as a nursing NHS ambassador.

‘I’m honoured and excited. It’s a very special opportunity,’ says Ms Morgan, who is in the second year of her degree in learning disability nursing at the University of Northampton.

‘I want to get the word out about what a great career this is and the opportunities you have to make a difference.’

Work experience in a care home ignited her passion

Her passion for the field was first ignited when she did some work experience at a Leonard Cheshire home, helping people living with mild learning disabilities, as part of a health and social care college course.

‘I fell in love with it,’ says Ms Morgan. ‘I had no experience in this area and it wasn’t something I’d even considered. But I have found that I like giving a voice to those who aren’t always given the chance to express themselves, helping them to have more control over their lives and make their own decisions.’

She hopes her new ambassador role will provide her with a platform where she can challenge some of the widespread misunderstandings about learning disabilities.

‘I’d like to see a more inclusive society,’ she says. ‘There isn’t enough education about learning disabilities. Even those in the medical profession and nursing colleagues outside of the field often don’t have enough understanding.

‘There are small issues that affect people’s care that could be rectified easily with some training, but it doesn’t seem to be offered at the moment.’

Shocking deaths caused by health inequalities

Also of concern are the well-charted health inequalities faced by people with a learning disability. According to learning disability charity Mencap, the life expectancy of women with a learning disability is 18 years shorter than women in the general population, while for men it is 14 years less.

‘These are deaths that are avoidable. It’s shocking and saddening,’ says Ms Morgan, who is also a student advocate at the university. ‘I want everyone to have access to the same standard of healthcare, with no one at a disadvantage.’

Recruitment drive to find 50,000 nurses

She volunteered to become an NHS ambassador after seeing a poster at the university asking for students to sign-up. Specifically, she will be taking part in an initiative announced in November, which is part of the drive to recruit an extra 50,000 nurses.

Bringing together Speakers for Schools, The Talent Foundry and the Nursing Ambassador Network, young people across England are being offered work experience placements, insight days and workshops.

This includes a series of online masterclasses centred around the different fields of nursing, with a particular focus on learning disability nursing, alongside community and mental health nursing.

‘Fitting it around my studies means I’ll need to be organised – it will be all about the planning,’ says Ms Morgan. ‘But it will enhance my studies, helping to shape the nurse I want to become, while encouraging younger people to consider this as their career.

‘I’ll be telling them what a great choice this is, and that it offers so many different opportunities. It’s incredible how broad the options are – many of us aren’t tied to a hospital but are out there in the field in a multitude of settings.’

Lifting the veil and revealing what learning disability nurses do

Looking ahead, she is considering working with patients who have an acquired brain injury. ‘It’s about problem-solving and how people can live their life afterwards,’ says Ms Morgan. She has also requested a placement with the prison service, to find out more about rehabilitation.

‘When people ask me what degree I’m studying for, I always get questions such as, “Is it real nursing?” and “Are you going to be a qualified nurse?”,’ says Ms Morgan. ‘But where there’s ignorance about learning disability nursing, that’s where you’ll find me, talking honestly about how rewarding the profession is and lifting the veil, so others can take a peek at what we do.’

Becoming a nursing ambassador

The Nursing Ambassador Network, which sits within Nursing Now England, involves more than 1,100 nurses from across England who represent every career stage – from undergraduates to senior nurses – and from all backgrounds and branches of the profession.

Everyone is passionate about promoting nursing as a career. They recognise, celebrate and value the expertise, knowledge and skills that the nursing workforce brings to the health and well-being of the nation.

Meanwhile, Inspiring the Future runs an ambassador scheme for NHS employees, including nurses, linking volunteers with young people in the hope of inspiring them to choose a health service career by highlighting the opportunities available.

Supported by Health Education England, ambassadors are provided with materials to help them plan their activities, including tips on how to engage with children and young people. The commitment can be as little as an hour a year.


Further information


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