Newly-qualified nurses have been given the chance to specialise in learning disabilities as part of a new ‘rotation’ scheme in Hertfordshire.
The initiative has been introduced by Hertfordshire Partnership Foundation Trust (HPFT) to tackle a shortage of Learning Disability Nurses (LDNs).
Through links with local higher education institutes, the scheme allows nurses to experience a number of different specialist areas in their first year of employment, before deciding to focus on just one.
Working with people with learning disabilities requires particular skills, and the Department of Health is currently looking at ways to resolve a national shortage of registered LDNs by encouraging more people to train in the speciality.
Official statistics published in the Nursing Times in December last year show that the learning disability workforce more than halved between 1995 and 2009.
The number of registered specialists has fallen from 12,504 to just 6,600, and this figure is expected to drop even further because many LDNs are due to retire. In contrast, HPFT has filled all its regional LDN vacancies thanks to the rotation scheme.
A total of 34 new LDNs were recruited in the region between October 2007 and January 2012, figures show.
Jacky Vincent, lead nurse for Learning Disability and Forensic Services at HPFT, said: “Our rotation scheme, which links firmly with the trust’s ‘preceptorship’ process, has worked very well in Hertfordshire and we feel it could be a useful model for a national approach.”
Hannah Ford, who works in the Trust’s Cassio Unit at Watford, said: “As a newly registered learning disability nurse looking for my first job, the rotation scheme stood out as an ideal opportunity to develop my nursing skills and gain experience in a variety of settings.
“I received regular supervision and support but was also able work autonomously and I feel this, along with attending the regular study days, has given me a great foundation to build my nursing career on. I would recommend this scheme to all newly registered nurses.”