Learning disability nurses play an important role in helping patients live as independently as possible. Improving the quality of life for people with learning disabilities can prove challenging, but also hugely rewarding, and if you have the right skillset you can make a genuine difference to those that need your support.

For anyone interested in a career as a learning disability nurse, we’ve listed some key factors to consider when thinking about a career as a learning disability nurse.

Entry requirements

In order to become a learning disability nurse, you’ll first have to acquire a nursing degree prior to registering with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). Full-time courses usually last three years, with the first twelve months focusing on basic care and nursing principles followed by two years specialising in learning disability care. Acceptance to the degree programme will vary by institution, but usually applicants are required to have at least five GCSEs at A to C grade (including English, maths and a science), as well two to three A-Levels. Before becoming a learning disability nurse, you will also have to pass background and health checks administered by the Disclosure and Barring Service.

Although this is the most common route into learning disability nursing, there are alternative options available. If you already have a health-related degree you may be able to complete an accelerated two-year masters course before registering with the NMC. Apprenticeship schemes are also an increasingly viable option for individuals looking to enter the health sector. Your local NHS Trust or the government Apprenticeship website can provide more information on this route into learning disability nursing. 

Although in most cases experience is not necessary prior to registering as a learning disability nurse, any kind of volunteer or paid work in a care-related field, particularly working with disabled individuals, is likely to prove beneficial. 

The role of a learning disability nurse

Working as a learning disability nurse will involve interacting with and supporting individuals across all age groups who need assistance in their everyday lives. This could be in a variety of settings, such as a hospital or residential environment, and requires you to tailor your work to the specific needs of each individual client. 

A typical day as a learning disability nurse may include the following tasks:

• Engaging with vulnerable people
• Promoting and supporting your client’s independence by helping with personal hygiene, getting dressed, leaving the house, finding a job, etc.
• Creating healthcare reviews as part of a team 
• Planning GP clinics and home visits to monitor patient care
• Organising social activities and events for your clients
• Supporting equal access to public and community services
• Advising clients’ carers and family members

In order to be successful in this role, there are a number of skills that will prove vitally important. Individuals will need to display compassion, empathy and patience when dealing with sensitive situations, and develop excellent communication skills to communicate effectively with both their clients and colleagues. They will need to have a flexible approach to work and be able to relate to a wide range of people, particularly across a broad age range. Perhaps most important of all, successful learning disability nurses must have a genuine desire to help others if they are to truly thrive in their career. 

While working as a learning disability nurse can be challenging, it also gives you an opportunity to improve the lives of those that you’re working with. If this sounds like something that appeals to you, then a career in nursing could be ideal.