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Learning disability nursing might be a small branch but, for some, it’s the most important


Choosing which field of nursing to study was not difficult. I spent time thinking seriously about it and researching each option, but I always knew learning disability nursing was for me.

Kieran Uttley_SNT

Kieran Uttley is a first year learning disability student nurse at Keele University

I am constantly inspired in practice by some amazing learning disability nurses who are doing fantastic work, caring and nursing for some challenging and complex client groups. Everybody I have come across has been friendly and really does want to develop students’ skills. 

As learning disability nurses, the impact we have on the lives of the people we care for is far-reaching. We are our service users’ advocates and their friends, we go the extra mile to care for them and to support them. We remain a part of our service users’ lives whether they are in or out of hospital, ensuring their social and emotional well-being is maintained in the community.

As I’m sure you can tell, I’m passionate about what I do, but as a first year student I have fears that maybe I’ve made a mistake and lie awake at night questioning my practice. But each day when I go out to placement, these fears settle, as my love for learning disability nursing and passion to nurse is rekindled.

For me, it’s the inspiring moments that happen on placement that keep my motivation high despite the essays, exams, long shifts and challenging lectures.

It’s when you first start your placement and no one knows who you are – the clients don’t know you and you don’t them. You are introduced as “Kieran the Student Nurse” and frequently you start interacting with a person who may have no verbal communication.

Then you start to adapt and think on your feet. You get creative and use flashcards or anything you have to hand to communicate with the service user.

I have used lights, handheld fans and even tastes such as chocolate or juice to start an interaction going. When I get a smile or some gentle eye contact, I feel privileged to be caring for this person and know I have made a difference. I often feel I’m making a difference just with the smallest contribution.

I want to be a learning disability nurse because I want to keep making these small differences to the lives of some of the most vulnerable individuals in our community.

Learning disability nursing is challenging and demanding. It’s the most misunderstood and misrepresented branch of nursing but, for people with learning disabilities, it’s the most important.


Kieran Uttley is in his first year studying learning disability nursing at Keele University


Readers' comments (2)

  • Learning Disability Nurses are a small but very competent and capable group of professionals. As Student Nurses, development through placements, lectures and assignments enables us to utilise our skills and knowledge. I will be finished my training in 3 weeks and starting my first post as a Staff Nurse, and upon reflection believe that we often have to think on our feet and adapt to every changing situation.
    I totally agree with your comments in that we are making small differences to those most vulnerable in our communities.

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  • Thank you Kieran for this encouraging blog. I am starting my nursing training at the end of September and I have chosen the Learning Disability branch. I have already been reading about the difficulties that Learning Disability nurses face and I worry about the future in this branch but your blog has given me reassurance. I can't wait to start making a difference :)

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