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  • 28 June 2011
  • 5 min read

Emma Smith - Learning Disability Nursing Student

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Emma Smith is studying learning disability nursing in Wales. We asked her to tell us what got her interested in caring and nursing, and what she gets up to during her course. If you’re thinking of becoming an RNLD, read on!

Where are you studying, and what is the title of the course?

Bangor University - School of Healthcare Sciences, Nursing BN (Hons) Degree Learning Disability

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Tell us about this nursing degree

For the first year of the degree we completed a common foundation programme where we were introduced to key nursing knowledge and skills. We were introduced to the key principles of modern nursing and developed knowledge of the human body and health factors.

Three modules were covered during the year which were:

1. Foundations in Nursing

2. Aspects of health in the context of vulnerable groups

3. Personal and professional developments in adult, child, learning disability and mental health

We attended the school for formal teaching sessions such as lectures and tutorials. During the year we also attended 3x 7 week practice placements i.e community nursing team, school nurse, acute hospital, community hospital, health visitor e.t.c.

We were examined through assignments, assessments and practice assessments.

At the start of the second year we were branched into our chosen field of nursing which was learning disability nursing. There are 11 of us in my group. It had been arranged for us to go away for the night as a team building exercise.

This was a great opportunity for us all to get to know each other better and boosted our confidence, we had so much fun!

The branch course is 50% theory and 50% practice. We have 3x 13 weeks placements in the second and the third year such as community settings, residential settings and hospital settings in the North Wales area.

Year 2 modules include Foundations in learning disability nursing

The learning process

The developing learning disability practitioner

During these modules we are examined through assignments, presentations, clinical and practical assessments.

The first module introduced assessed our knowledge and understanding of the links between communication, empowerment and valuing the person. The learning process module gave us the opportunities to carry out teaching sessions and reflect upon our experiences through exploring educational theories.

The third module is the viva and is a formative presentation examining our knowledge of the role of the learning disability practitioner.

These sound daunting but honestly, the teaching environment we are in makes it so much easier!

The modules in the 3rd year are as follows which I have yet to complete:

Meeting the health needs of individuals

Working with individuals with complex needs

Personal and professional development

During the first module we will be expected to produce an individual client portfolio. We will be expected to carry out a literature research and review, create care plans and reflecting upon these.

The second module will give us the opportunity to produce a teaching programme designed to promote the health of individuals (this is what I’m looking forward to most!)

The final module is an essay on PCP (person centred planning) with reference to practice experience and then we have completed the course!

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Where would you like to take your career when you finish your degree? And can you tell us what it is about that sector of the industry that interests you?

Good question... I have no idea! I have thoroughly enjoyed all my placements so far and would be more than happy to work at any of my practice placements.I enjoyed my community placement where I was able to get the hang of the different assessments, home care (visit clients at their own homes), work alongside carers and families, and contribute towards making ethical decisions and much more.

I felt right at home and had a supportive and caring mentor which always makes a difference! I have also enjoyed my hospital setting placement where I have learnt many nursing skills and carry out hands on care. I cannot wait to go on placement with the Children’s Specialist Services as I have had no experience within this field. So time will tell...

What first got you interested in social care / nursing as a career?

I guess I’ve always been a caring person and putting others before myself. I decided to study care and applied for a diploma in care at college.

During this course we had 2 or 3 practice placements. One of mine was a learning disability school. I’ll be honest, I was frightened. I had no idea what to expect but took the chance.

Having only spent a day there it completely changed the way I viewed people with learning disabilities. I didn’t want to leave. It was the best chance I ever took and changed my whole perception of people with learning disabilities. Following this I decided to work in a supported living house with adults with learning disabilities for 4 years. I thoroughly enjoyed working at the service and alongside the service users.

This lead me into applying for my nursing degree in learning disabilities.

Do you feel there are plenty of nursing job opportunities for you out there at the moment?

No. I’m under the impression that my whole group will be struggling for jobs when we qualify. It seems that the government’s priorities are to save the pennies. But this is all just hearsay so who knows… [We suggest that there are jobs out there, just check out our learning disability jobs pages on our sister site! 

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Are you enjoying your course? What is it that you enjoy about it and is it what you expected?

Yes! One of the main reasons behind enjoying my course is that we are all like a team in my group. We all support each other and get on so well! We share our ideas and information which makes it so much easier.

My tutor is very supportive and approachable which is always good. To be honest, I was hoping to learn more about nursing skills, health conditions and illnesses than what the course offers as people with learning disabilities suffer from the same illnesses as the rest of society but I guess everything can’t be fitted in.

Are you working part time to earn money while you study? If so, is it nursing or social care related?

Yes. I work part time as a home carer and I’m on the bank as a HCA healthcare assistant.

Sometimes I find it difficult to do both as I need to prioritise my nursing degree. But my employers are very understanding and do their best to accommodate my needs.

What would you say to anyone considering learning disability nursing as a course or a job?

Go for it!

Never be afraid to try something new and if its what you really want to do then you will do it! It’s the most rewarding job, seeing the difference you can make to someone’s life will always put a smile on your face.

About the author

Our guest writers at come from all different walks of life. Although they come from different professions, whether that be a Mental Health Nurse, a Paramedic, a Surgeon, a Doctor, or a Recruiter, they all offer a wealth of experience and knowledge which is invaluable. Their dedication, loyalty and love for their role is what brings them here, to, where they write helpful content for you. They are real people bringing you real experiences.

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