Case study

Community learning disability nurse — Linda

Linda finds her job extremely rewarding and says it's a type of nursing that helps to improve patients' quality of life

How did you get your job?

Things were different when I first qualified as a nurse as we were more or less guaranteed a job. Following an interview I went straight from being a student nurse, to a staff nurse on an assessment and treatment unit within the hospital where I did my registered learning disability nurse training.

Since then, I've had the opportunity to complete a BSc in Community Learning Disability Nursing at the University of Glamorgan. This has not only enabled me to keep up to date with advances in learning disability nursing, but also helps in my mentoring role of placement students within our team.

Voluntary work provides valuable experience in developing communication and interpersonal skills

How relevant is your degree to your job?

Training has now changed and a degree in nursing is required to become registered.

What are your main work activities?

My current role is really varied. I am responsible for a designated caseload of adult clients who have a learning disability and additional health needs. This may include epilepsy, challenging behaviour, mental ill health and profound and multiple disabilities.

I work within a multi-disciplinary team with social workers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists to assess clients' health needs and ensure their needs are met.

I support clients in their own homes, living with families, in supported living schemes, in residential homes and empower them to access mainstream health services. I also visit clients in day centres, work placements, schools and colleges. The role not only involves working with individuals but also liaison and training to care providers, families and other professionals.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

The role is continually changing and adapting to meet the needs of clients. A recent document Strengthening the Commitment highlights the value of the learning disability nurse. It sets out the future strategic direction with recommendations of exciting, new and innovative ways the learning disability nurse can contribute to improving care, e.g. liaison roles within general hospitals, working in prisons, etc.

I am really interested in improving healthcare for people with a learning disability and my ambition is to implement a liaison role at our local general hospital.

What do you enjoy about your job?

Being a learning disability nurse is so rewarding. I enjoy being part of peoples' journeys through life and helping to make a difference to their quality of life. Due to the nature of learning disability, individuals do not get better, however, we can strive to help them gain skills and grow in confidence and independence. Even very small steps can mean so much, for example a smile of recognition when you visit.

I work in the NHS but learning disability nurses have transferable skills and are also employed within the private and voluntary sectors so there are plenty of job opportunities.

What are the most challenging parts of your job?

It can be challenging and frustrating when applications for funding are rejected. This can mean you have to think outside the box to come up with novel ways of providing support.

Another difficulty can be dealing with conflicting issues when an individual wants to do something but their family tries to hold them back.

Any words of advice for someone who wants to get into this job?

Try some voluntary work first - it shows what working with people who have learning disabilities is like, but also provides valuable experience in developing communication and interpersonal skills, which are beneficial for the role.

Also, I would strongly advise any students to join relevant organisations such as Positive Choices, which is an organisation that celebrates learning disability nursing students and promotes excellence in practice.