My training as a learning disability (LD) nurse has come with a vast range of different, challenging and interesting experiences.
I had the opportunity to undertake a variety of placements, including working with adults with profound and multiple LD, working in a special school as well as working in a community team and within a forensic setting.
However, I would say that the experience that has shaped my training the most is attending an annual conference called Positive Choices for LD student nurses, organised by Helen Laverty among others working in the field.
This conference enables students from different universities to meet and network as well as listen to the latest developments in the field. Its main purpose is to give a voice to a small field of nursing.
One of its mottos is ‘Together we are better’ and I try to live my life by this and practice it in my placements.
”Team work is a crucial aspect of my nursing practice”
I have been able to see the truth behind it as team work is a crucial aspect of my nursing practice: we largely work with a multidisciplinary team to ensure people with LD receive the care that they need.
At the conference, we were lucky enough to be able to hear from families of people with LD. This enabled us as student nurses to adapt our nursing style and practice based on the experiences people with LD have had, so that their needs are appropriately met.
We also had the opportunity to see two performances from a mixed drama group (MiXit) made up of people with LD and people without disabilities.
Such performances often examine life experiences that are common to people with LD and raise awareness of struggles they often face. Watching the performances enhanced my understanding and awareness about the life experiences that those I care for may have encountered, making me more mindful of their needs.
LD nursing has undergone some radical changes over the years, most notably the closure of long-stay hospitals with the movement of people with LD into more community-based settings. With these changes in the living arrangements of people with LD, there has been a change in the way nurses work.
”I am looking forward to what my final year holds”
I have been lucky enough to work under some very experienced LD nurses including a nurse who has recently been awarded an OBE in the Queen’s birthday honours for her services to nursing. I have also been involved in the use of a new nursing model developed specifically for use in learning disability services.
I feel that I have had a well-rounded training experience so far, and I am looking forward to what my final year holds.
I feel that the most important part of training is you yourself and making the most of the experiences you are given. It’s OK to have a go at new opportunities, and always remember to smile and enjoy!
Rachel Wayper is in her third year studying learning disabilities nursing at University of Wolverhampton