You need to complete a pre-registration nursing programme and have excellent communication skills to be a learning disability nurse
In this role you will help people of all ages with learning disabilities to maintain their health and wellbeing and to live their lives as fully and independently as possible. You'll also offer support to their families, carers and friends.
Being a learning disability nurse includes teaching people the skills to look after themselves or to find work, and helping with daily activities such as attending college, going on holiday or out with friends.
You'll need to draw up care plans and monitor the implementation of recommendations and will work in teams with other nurses and health and social welfare professionals.
As well as helping patients to stay healthy and making sure that they get any medical care they need, you'll help their families and carers to take breaks when necessary.
The work is mainly based in community or supported living-settings and your tasks may include:
These rates may be supplemented by additional payments for work in high-cost areas, unsocial hours or being on call.
Income data from Health Careers. Figures are intended as a guide only.
As a learning disability nurse you'll typically work a 37.5 hour week. This may include unsocial hours if you work in supported living units. If you're based in the community your hours should be more regular but occasional out-of-hours home visits may be required.
Flexible hours and part-time work opportunities are available and career breaks may be possible. Temporary work is also available through specialist agencies and nurse banks.
To work as a nurse in the UK, you must be registered with the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC). To become registered, you need to have completed an accepted pre-registration nursing programme and these are only run at NMC approved educational institutions (AEIs).
Pre-registration degrees can be taken in four disciplines:
Typically, half of the course is based in clinical practice, giving you direct experience of working with patients and families. You could be based within a variety of settings including hospitals, the community, patients' homes and independent organisations.
You may be able to get accreditation of prior learning (APL) if you have a degree in another health-related or biology-based subject or other practice-based learning. Course providers will decide what subjects are relevant and whether you can take a shorter programme so check with them for details. A list of all approved programmes can be found at NMC Approved Programmes.
Before you start a pre-registration programme you'll need to have a Disclosure and Barring Service check. The NMC also states that all nurses must meet their requirements of good health and good character.
Funding support to help cover tuition fees is provided by the NHS for UK residents. You should contact individual institutions to find out if your course is covered. Bursaries are also provided to help with living costs. More information can be found at NHS Student Bursaries. For bursary information if you are attending courses in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland see:
You will need to show:
Pre-entry experience is not always needed, although experience of working with people, especially care work with people with disabilities, is advantageous. You can search for charities that work with people with learning disabilities, which may be able to offer volunteering opportunities, at Charity Choice.
As a learning disability nurse, you can work in a variety of settings, including services provided by the NHS, social services and private companies. These include:
In addition, there are a number of charities and private and voluntary organisations that provide support and accommodation for people with learning disabilities.
Learning disability nurses are also highly valued within the HM Prison Service. There are opportunities abroad for those with experience.
Look for job vacancies at:
Job vacancies are often sent directly to course leaders in the institutions where nurses train and study. In addition, there are many specialist nursing agencies, such as Pulse, that recruit for both permanent and temporary positions. For a searchable directory of agencies, see the Nursing Agencies List.
Your registration with the NMC has to be renewed every three years. To do this, you need to show that you've met revalidation requirements within that time. This includes:
CPD activities can include carrying out distance learning or attending conferences, workshops or relevant training courses and events. Find out more at NMC Revalidation.
Training courses are available in areas such as:
You will also have the opportunity to further your knowledge and develop specialisms in areas such as forensic nursing, education, sensory disability or epilepsy management.
You could consider taking MSc or PhD qualifications through part-time learning programmes. If you work in the private or residential sector you'll usually be responsible for sourcing and organising your own training.
After approximately two years' post-qualification experience, you can aim for promotion, and/or further specialist study with the possibility of moving on to be a team leader or head of learning disabilities nursing.
With further training in specialist skills, management, or the development of teaching skills, it's possible to progress into:
Other opportunities might involve advisory work for the Department of Health or NHS. Some opportunities, for example, management roles or teaching and research, may mean a move away from hands-on work.
Outside the NHS, opportunities once you've got substantial experience can be found in social services, voluntary organisations, private healthcare organisations providing community care, and in health services overseas, in both paid and voluntary capacities.
Another opportunity for nurses is working in prison services, in settings such as specialist secure units for offenders with disabilities.