Learning Disability Nursing: A Rewarding Career Choice

The list of ways that people can be differently abled is vast, and the list of rewards that can be found in working with them is even bigger.

A little girl with a learning disability is sitting on a woman's lap as they enjoy reading a book together.

Nursing in any field could truly reflect the saying “no two days are the same”. However, this is especially true for those who work with patients who have learning disabilities. This career also involves supporting their families too. So you will be finding appropriate solutions to help individuals to live fulfilling lives, within their care team.

It is certainly for you if you want your nursing career to be thought-provoking, stimulating and diverse!

Daily rewards from learning disability nursing

You will find that some patients in this field are open and unassuming, ready to thank you for everything you do and brimming over with affection. Others may find their health issues are confusing, frustrating or even distressing. This requires a learning disability nurse to be infinitely patient and ready to empathise, explaining everything carefully and responding intuitively. You may be called on to be assertive sometimes too!

Imagine though, the moment that a distressed, withdrawn or challenged patient with a learning disability blossoms under your professional care. When you see understanding and acceptance displayed all because you took the time to make your patient feel safe and cared for. Every progressive step they take could bring you substantial professional satisfaction.

It’s something that Eloise Eddington fully understands, having been inspired to take this career path by seeing the professional care that benefitted her brother, who has Downs Syndrome. Eloise is particularly excited by the work experience she is undertaking while studying Learning Disabilities Nursing at the University of Cumbria:

“I absolutely love the placement and I am always excited to get back out there. I have been lucky in that I've had some amazing placements that have given me fantastic opportunities. The best will be my elective placement in June/July when I go to Australia to work with people with learning disabilities. I am very excited about that!”

What’s involved in this field of nursing?

Specialising in learning disability brings a flexible career with a wide choice of potential roles and responsibilities. You will also have excellent nursing career prospects, as learning disability nurses are often in high demand.

Thanks to advances in medical science, people who have learning disabilities – including those with a complex diagnosis – are living longer. This means you could work with young children right at the start of their journey in adapting to their specialist needs; right through to elderly patients who deserve just as much care and support.

Your role as a learning disability nurse will be to help each person take steps to protect and improve both their physical and mental health. You could assist them to overcome obstacles and reduce barriers, to enable them to live as independently as possible. It could involve helping them to develop the skills they need to maximise their education, do well at college, hold down a job or go on holiday!

You will be called on to use your specialist communication skills, and help to interpret differently abled behaviours. It’s a role that uses planning skills to arrange activities for patients and to ensure they keep to their daily routines and special appointments. It involves knowing what is going on in your local community and working with other service providers, potentially even supporting the causes of equality and equal access.

In a nutshell, it comes down to giving each person the support they need to live a healthy and fulfilling life.

What would you earn, and where would you work?

Generally speaking, a newly qualified learning disability nurse would earn between £23,023 and £29,608 for a 37.5 hour week. Part-time and flexi posts are sometimes available. You can find out more about learning disability nursing jobs at prospects.ac.uk.

As mentioned, the roles and responsibilities of this category of nurse can cover many options, so where you work also differs according to your preferences and career path. Some learning disability nurses work with patients in a community setting, visiting them in their own homes. Other nurses in the exciting sector are based in general hospitals or specific mental health units. Others work in schools, colleges or prisons. There are also learning disability nursing posts in workplaces and residential homes.

You will generally be part of a care team, playing a role in healthcare reviews and care plans with other health and social welfare professionals. This provides opportunities to continuously develop your own understanding and skills in this ever-changing field.

What nursing qualifications would you need?

To become a nurse in learning disabilities care, you would need to enrol for an undergraduate nursing degree. The University of Cumbria offers a specific degree course for those who want to specialise in Learning Disabilities. Accreditation of prior learning is possible if you already have a degree in a health-related or biology-based subject or relevant practical experience.

Full details can be found on the learning disabilities nursing course page

Alternatively, contact us to discuss this rewarding career path and higher education qualification in more detail.