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Welcome to learning disability nursing!

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Thank you for choosing learning disability nursing – or did it choose you? 

My name is Helen Laverty and my “day job” is health lecturer in LD (learning disabilities) at the University of Nottingham; but I’m also the facilitator of the POSITIVE CHOICES network which you will be hearing lots about over the next three years and will hopefully take part in. Whatever the reason you came into LD nursing, the positive choices network is here to support you, help you be strong and really make a difference because “together we are better”.

Facebook: love it or loath it, if used properly in a professional sense it can be one of your biggest and quickest sources of support. Request to be added to Positive choices – learning disability nurses are fantastic; and have a look at We also host our own twitchat once a fortnight on LDnurse chat and love for you to become a part of our online community. I asked the students on the network what I should be telling you:


“That being an LD nurse is not something we do. It’s who we are”

“You already have the values of a nursing profession at heart… that at times it can be emotionally difficult… but the strength and passion of RNLDs will carry you through”

“Use self directed study days to actually study. Less stressful when it comes to exam and assignment time. I speak from experience!”

“You have made the right choice by choosing to become a LDN….. I have never felt so good about myself I have no regrets. Every minute spent working with a person with a learning disability, paid or not, is priceless. Tell the newbies that they are heading in the right direction”

“Not to listen to people with negative views on their chosen career path”


When I started my training in 1979 (and dinosaurs ruled the land…) there was much negativity and prejudice about the career choice and client group - people suggested maybe I wasn’t clever enough to do “real nursing” and it was questionned whether there was even a need for nurses for people with learning disabilities. I’d love to be able to tell you that all of that prejudice has gone, but I can’t. Nursing is an evolving profession, but in LD nursing the evolution is often quieter: changes in policy, philosophy and attitude often see the role of LD nurses marginalised and its existence called into question.

But don’t let this dishearten you. Not many other branches of nursing have the opportunity to provide a lifelong service. Nursing individuals with a LD has always been, for me, about lifestyle facilitation and this role holds the key to ending prejudice against the individuals we nurse.

Living with a LD brings complex challenges and our job as learning disability nurses is to find a way of interpreting and making sense of the world for that individual. We are charged with re-presenting, as well as representing (when appropriate), the person back to the world. This re-presentation of a person showcases our skill base and expert knowledge to the world – after all we ARE registered nurses.

Enjoy your programme, be proud of who you are and never be afraid to stand up and be counted. You are all welcome to come along to the Positive Choices 10th Anniversary Conference: Inspiring Learning, Leadership and Legacy on March 20th and 21st 2014. Be sure to come over and say hello!


Helen Laverty is a health lecturer at the University of Nottingham (learning disabilities)

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