Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

STUDENT EDITOR BLOG

Should nurse swaps have a place in all training programmes?

  • 2 Comments

I speak from experience when I say that learning disabilities nursing training is a callous experience

Rebecca Wallet

Predominantly it is the constant reminder, at the hands of other healthcare professionals, that we are not ‘proper’ nurses. If learning disability nurses are forced to forever defend themselves for not being ‘proper’ nurses, does that same preconception apply to individuals with learning disabilities? Are they viewed as not being ‘proper’ people by health staff and providers?

“Are [people with learning disabilities] viewed as not being ‘proper’ people by health staff and providers?”

I have been fortunate enough to take part in a nurse exchange organised by the University of Hertfordshire and Oxford Brookes University. In short, the exchange required first year adult nurses at Oxford Brookes and first year learning disability nurses at the University of Hertfordshire (Oxford campus) to swap placements for two weeks, the aim being that both branches of nursing experience one other’s roles within the healthcare environment.

I must blow the trumpets of both the University of Hertfordshire and Oxford Brookes University and congratulate them for recognising the need for students to experience the roles of different professions and taking the initiative to implement this element into their programmes. The exchange was welcomed by both branches of nurses who were all in agreement that it would be an eye-opener.

“I was shocked further still when I found out this comment had been made by a deputy sister.”

I spoke to three fellow learning disability students, Zoe Turan, Charlotte Temple and Sian Donavan, about their individual experiences on the nurse swap.

Zoe was left determined to challenge prejudices when, whilst on the exchange, she was asked why on earth she wanted to work with people with a learning disability by someone who proceeded to make an inappropriate noise accompanied by a disturbing facial expression to explain what she thought people with learning disabilities did.

I was shocked further still when I found out from Zoe this comment had been made by a deputy sister.

“She was told that she wouldn’t be a real nurse as she ‘couldn’t make people better’.”

To Charlotte, whilst on the exchange it seemed that learning disability nurses weren’t considered to be nurses at all. She was told that she wouldn’t be a real nurse as she ‘couldn’t make people better’. Why would we need to make someone with a learning disability better exactly? Their impairment does not make them ill. Charlotte found herself having to explain repeatedly what a learning disability nurse is and what it is we do.

For Sian, going on to an adult ward was familiar, as she had previously trained for two years as an adult nurse. However, being a learning disability nurse Sian said, has enabled her experience things on the ward in a different pair of shoes.

“Individuals with learning disabilities access hospitals and it is not acceptable simply to say you are not equipped to provide them with effective care.”

Sian told me what some of the adult nurses she spoke to about their experiences with individuals with learning disabilities had told her. Those on her ward said of course they try their hardest to provide good quality care but fully admitted they are not specialised or equipped with the skills to enable them to give effective care for these individuals. They told Sian that as a result they rely a lot on parents and carers.

Although I appreciate the honesty of these nurses, it does set alarm bells ringing for me. Why are our nurses not equipped to care for certain people? Individuals with learning disabilities access hospitals and it is not acceptable simply to say you are not equipped to provide them with effective care.

“So why, if nurses recognise they do not have the skills to care for individuals with learning disabilities, aren’t they learning to do so?”

The NMC recommends a continuation of professional development after graduation, so why, if nurses recognise they do not have the skills to care for individuals with learning disabilities, aren’t they learning to do so?

I must add, of course, that the experiences of my colleagues and me are not a reflection on every adult nurse. I appreciate that adult nursing is both a physically and emotionally demanding profession, and its nurses are clinically highly skilled.

And I do find myself questioning whether some attitudes towards learning disabilities nursing would be different if a nurse exchange was a requirement of all nursing programmes.

So would you welcome the experience of a different branch of nursing? Do you think it may help you build a broader skillset? Or perhaps equip you with the knowledge to care for everyone regardless of their needs?

Rebecca Wallett is Student Nursing Times’ student editor for learning disabilities branch.

  • 2 Comments

Readers' comments (2)

  • I think placement swaps are a fantastic idea. in my experience, this has been attempted in a few universities, but not properly.

    The adult branch students in my university were sent for 3 weeks to a local college, to spend time with people with learning disabilities. These people were high functioning,friendly,healthy people that are furthering their education at college. This is not an average client for a learning disability nurse, and although it might be great for 'exposure' to this client group, does not promote learning disability nursing as a profession.

    This year,the adult 'swap' placement was scheduled to start on 12th July(for 3 weeks), when the college broke up for summer on 14th July . So they were told not to attend,with a booklet about health inequalities given instead.

    I, for one can see why were are not seen as 'nurses'. We are taught so much about other professionals in the MDT , but not about other branches of nursing?

    I am for a foundation year of nurse training, but this should be over all branches, not 'adult' orientated.

    adult
    child
    learning disability
    mental health
    elderly care
    maternity
    community

    look beyond the 'traditional' branches of nursing , as they are currently in a period of change :)

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • rebecca wallett

    Thank you for your feedback, I'm glad to hear that other universities are doing it too! I can only hope that more universities will choose to implement nurse swap into their programmes!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.