As my time as learning disabilities nursing student editor draws to a close it feels appropriate to say goodbye with this reassurance that I will never lose faith in learning disabilities nursing.
Throughout my course I have received mixed reactions from fellow nurses and other professionals who discuss my profession with me with caution, onto this idea that it is frail or in danger.
They ask me if there are going to be any jobs in learning disabilities nursing, or approach employability with a pitying look in their eye and say “wouldn’t it have been better to choose mental health nursing?” (No, because they are not the same and I wanted to be a learning disabilities nurse).
Some people have been very upfront about their concerns, borderline rude or just blunt, telling me that it was a bad idea to choose this career. Others have skirted around the edges of the conversation for fear of insulting me whilst clearly thinking the very same.
One thing has become very clear throughout the last three years: learning disabilities nursing is not in any danger.
“One thing is clear: learning disabilities nursing is not in any danger”
Yes, fewer universities are training learning disabilities nurses and the size of groups are becoming smaller (so are other branches, funding will always fluctuate), but there will always be people with learning disabilities that require care and the special skills set we are trained with.
In fact the reduced number of people being trained to work with people with learning disabilities means there is an abundance of available jobs.
I have been trained with the skills every other branch of nursing has, but while they may know their way around a ward (which, by the way, learning disabilities nurses can and do work in more and more), or have more opportunities to take blood and complete urinalysis, I am welcomed over and over again into the lives of people who have very different communication needs and may have learned to distrust others.
“I am welcomed over and over again into the lives of people who have very different communication needs”
I get time to build relationships with people who need that support to do many things you and I take for granted, and then help them to gain the skills they need, and maintain good health, in order to achieve these.
My skills will never become irrelevant, my training will not stop being respected and the jobs will never stop being available. Individuals with learning disabilities will always need support, and I will always be there to provide it.
My final placement mentor has been a nurse in learning disabilities services for 43 years (and wears her 40 year badge with pride). People have told her time and time again that learning disabilities nurses don’t have jobs but there she is, still going, and definitely not in danger of being made redundant.
“Individuals with learning disabilities will always need support, and I will always be there to provide it”
I don’t know where this myth came from, that we will not be employable in the future, but any truth in it certainly hasn’t been reflected in my searches for a job. This ‘future’ has been hinted at ever since learning disability nursing began, but it isn’t tangible and is certainly not approaching at any speed.
I have faith in the career I chose, not just to continually keep me employed but to help me constantly grow as a person and as a professional.
All the people; staff, patients, service users, families, I have met in the past three years have each left some impression on my life. Every one has taught me a lesson or two about who I want to be and what differences I want to make.
Learning disabilities nursing is the exact right career for me to be in to make these changes.
Learning disabilities nursing has supported me to become a better version of myself in the last three years, and I shall put all my faith back into it, dispel that myth that we are an endangered branch of nursing and make my voice heard.
Lucy Cleden-Radford is Student Nursing Times’ student editor for learning disabilities branch