Stretching the boundaries of learning disability nursing
Despite popular opinion, learning disability nurses are needed in a range of care settings and should not limit their imagination when it comes to job searches, says Helen Laverty.
Despite popular opinion, learning disability nurses are needed in a range of care settings and should not limit their imagination when it comes to job searches, says Helen Laverty
As a learning disability nurse, you will be equipped with the same powerful toolkit as your colleagues in adult, child and mental health: the difference is where you have chosen to use it.
You can take your skillset anywhere, but your fundamental role is to represent people with a learning disability (LD) to services, and then ‘re-present’ them to help members of the public and health professionals develop positive attitudes towards people with an LD.
The same goes for representing and re-presenting services to people with an LD. It’s not about re-packaging; it’s about being fearless in your pursuit of making services equally accessible to everyone, including people with an LD and their families.
Strive for solutions
It is also about ensuring that we strive to provide creative, novel, sustainable solutions to issues that some services have always seen as a barrier. I’m talking here about diagnostic overshadowing.
Around the time of writing this article, I had posted a recruitment ad from a large paediatric acute hospital trust on social media, mentioning that, although they did not specifically ask for LD nurses, it has a proven track record of employing them.
Here are some of the replies from LD nurses:
- ‘It's the first time paeds have recruited out of their field, but I love it. I get to develop my clinical skills on the ward and link in with acute liaison LD for adults, schools etc.’
- ‘The only way to ensure people with an LD get equal services is to go where LD nurses typically don’t go, we get to remind everyone LD nurses do exist.’
- ‘I work on an acute spinal injury ward and have also worked on neuro wards. I also got myself a job in theatre recovery so anything is possible if you just try and put yourself out there.’
Don’t be held back
But acute services aren’t for everyone. Lots of you will have aspirations to work in the community, perhaps forensic services, children’s services, or working in hospices or prisons, essentially anywhere where people with an LD live, work and learn.
Don’t let the limits of someone else’s imagination hold you back. I asked 20 LD nurses and nursing students about their work, or where they are going to work after they register. Here are some of their answers:
- Safeguarding matron at an acute trust.
- Community capacity builder.
- Prison health centre.
- Health visitor.
- School nurse.
- Inpatient assessment services.
- Private hospital.
- Nursing home for older adults with a learning disability.
- Acquired brain injury rehabilitation.
- Community nurse (child and adolescent mental health services).
- Community nurse (parents with a learning disability).
- Specialist epilepsy nurse.
I often use song lyrics to illustrate a point, so I will leave you with Pure Imagination from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: ‘There is no, life I know, to compare with pure imagination. Living there, you'll be free...if you truly wish to be.’
About the author
Helen Laverty is an editorial advisory board member of Learning Disability Practice and professional lead for learning disability nursing in the school of health sciences, University of Nottingham