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'I had a major "wobble" in first-year; you get over it'

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My first year in training as a learning disability nurse (LDN) was a rollercoaster ride to say the least.

Holly Morgan-Phillips

I certainly did not enter the nursing profession expecting to fulfil my perceived traditional image of a student nurse, adorned with a hat and pinny, white tunic and belted waist with medicines, needles and bandages falling out of my pockets.

I knew LD nursing was focused on enablement, independence, quality and equality in life; and this had been precisely why I applied.

Yet the negativity started. Not from me, but from my friends and family, who came out with things wholly discouraging and unhelpful to the profession.

I was “not a proper nurse” as they’d “never heard of that field”; some summed it up by asking “what’s the point in that?”

This reaction hit me hard, deflated my passion. For part of the course I became closed-off, grumpy and reluctant to learn. I was adamant I was going to transfer.

I wanted to be a “proper” nurse, that more “traditional” image. The negativity took over.

“I wanted to be a “proper” nurse, that more “traditional” image”

I began to doubt myself and my choice of field. I spent the majority of the year trying to find out what it is exactly a LDN does, trying desperately to uncover the truth behind the myths that people seemed to say they were regarding LD nursing and fretting over whether or not I would even be able to get a job at the end of it all.

Was nursing really for me?

Choosing not to believe the encouraging words of my peers and tutors I became inpatient for my own development and understanding.

I had heard and read about so many positive accounts of LDNs but was yet to experience it. I had closed off.

“I forgot to keep an open mind during theory and placements”

I forgot to keep an open mind during theory and placements. I eagerly experimented with short (spoke) placements thinking perhaps I would find what I was searching for in the community, hospices, or perhaps a hospital, but I consistently missed the point due to blind determination.

During the summer I reached out through social media, hoping online communities could help me see where I might be heading, what specifics there were for someone who would be qualifying as an LDN?

The answers astounded me: it seemed anything was possible.

The options were endless. High variances of skills and career backgrounds became apparent.

I received emails from nurses who took time out of their day to go into incredible detail about their work and the difference they knew they had made doing it. And it seemed I had not been alone in my thinking; many people had concerns regarding job prospects as an LD nurse, but they had also been reassured by tutors and peers that the sky will clear and to hold on to why they joined the course.

The difference is they had, eventually, listened to this advice. 

“These amazing nursing communities of ours gave me the support and wake-up call I needed”

It was time for me to do the same. These amazing nursing communities of ours gave me the support and wake-up call I needed.

They showed me that with a little determination the path is clear and the options are seemingly limitless, and certainly not the dead-ends as I had allowed myself to believe.

Full to the brim with newly rediscovered passion and helped along by the kind hearts of so many, peers, tutors, and strangers who had taken the time to give me advice and share their stories, I continued my LD training.

They were right, all of them. Now, the puzzle pieces are beginning to slot together and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

Thank you, everyone.

“Now, the puzzle pieces are beginning to slot together and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else”

It is now the end of my second year and what a year it has been. Opening my mind to this glorious profession has truly been the key - and a willingness to take a risk hasn’t hurt.

The “wobbly” year which kicked of my career will never be forgotten. It has empowered me to gain friendship and ties which I will value for a lifetime and to harness the strength to continue with the utmost pride and passion in what I do.


Holly Morgan-Phillips is a current second-year learning disability nursing student


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