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Learning disabilities nursing

An iintroduction to learning disability nursing

What is it?

People with learning disabilities often have a wide range of physical and mental health conditions. Learning disability nurses work in partnership with them and family carers, to provide specialist healthcare. Their main aim is to support the well-being and social inclusion of people with a learning disability by improving or maintaining their physical and mental health; by reducing barriers; and supporting the person to pursue a fulfilling life. For example, teaching someone the skills to find work can be significant in helping them to lead a more independent, healthy life where they can relate to others on equal terms.

Learning disabilities nursing is provided in settings such as adult education, residential and community centres, as well as in patients’ homes, workplaces and schools. You could specialise in such areas as education, sensory disability or the management of services. If you work in a residential setting, you may do shifts to provide 24-hour care.

What does it involve?

The emphasis is on nursing in a range of social settings, including, home, work and leisure activities. You will gain experience in four main areas;

  • family settings
  • adult education
  • education for young people
  • community/residential settings

Nurses specialising in learning disabilities will work as part of a team which includes psychologists, social workers, teachers, general practitioners, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists and healthcare assistants.


What are the special needs?

Sensitive human interaction is the core skill. You will need to have great patience and highly developed, flexible communication skills.

The job can be stressful and demanding so self-awareness helps. You will sometimes need to be assertive to ensure people with a learning disability do not suffer discrimination. You will be dealing with all age ranges.

Working with people who have a learning disability is likely to be demanding and stressful at times, as progress can be slow, but satisfaction is great when someone has learned a new skill or can demonstrate new confidence in themselves thanks to your intervention.

Many learning disability nurses also occupy roles as managers, leading teams of support staff.

It is possible to combine training as a learning disabilities nurse with social work.