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'Did I really describe myself as a nurse without the uniform?!'

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When a question about what learning disability nurses do caught her off guard, Rebecca realised she was doing the profession a disservice by not having a clear answer.

Not too far into my first year my fiancé decided to do me the honour of highlighting my lack of knowledge on my chosen profession by asking what a learning disability nurse is.

Of course, being the master of all knowledge, I dignified his question with the most appropriate answer:

“Well, it’s… uh, you wouldn’t understand, I’m basically a nurse without the uniform.”

A nurse without the uniform. Perhaps a more fitting response would have been to admit how naked of knowledge I was on my chosen profession. I chose to be a nurse, so why did I deprive myself of the essential knowledge that allowed me to nurse competently; was I prepared to nurse?

Learning disability nursing is a career to be proud of and undressing our profession to uncover its core shouldn’t reveal long johns, but an understanding of our nursing role.

One of the most important pieces of advice I can give the many nursing freshers out there is to ‘know’ your nursing role.

“Undermining our profession is something us nurses are expert at”

Why I hear you ask? Well undermining our profession is something us nurses are expert at and is something I admit I am guilty of. By undermining our profession through not knowing our role, we are only undermining our own abilities.

Having the knowledge that enables you to tell others what a learning disability nurse is has uncounted benefits. One being that it shows your commitment to your nursing. Knowledge doesn’t mean that you are a geek, not that there is anything wrong with being a geek of course.

Nurses need a foundation to both practice and develop their professional skills from. From experience I can say for certain that the best foundation is not rimmel, or even max factor, but knowledge of your nursing role.

It’s a no brainer really; you need to know your nursing role because the individuals we support trust us with their health needs, and it is only fair that we respect this trust by knowing what our role in supporting them is.

“Getting to know my nursing role has been the best change I made to my studies this past year”

Think about the 6Cs. No, not coats, crop-tops, cardigans, corsets, crew-necks and culottes, but care, courage, commitment, communication, compassion and competence. Can you really implement all six into your practice if you don’t know what your nursing role is?

Getting to know my nursing role has been the best change I made to my studies this past year and I urge you to make the same change. Knowing my role has enabled me to proudly tell others about my chosen profession, be confident on placements and competent in my practice. I am proud of my nursing role, as should you be.

On the assumption that upon reading this you have unearthed that you cannot competently tell others what your nursing role is; I suggest that you do some researching. Find out what your role is, identify how the 6Cs fit into your role and put them into practice.

Trust me; nothing is more valuable than knowledge of your profession.

Rebecca Wallett is in her second year studying learning disabilities nursing at the University of Hertfordshire

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