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  • 17 May 2024
  • 10 min read

Finding your first nursing role with a learning disability

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Play video: "I feel if I had this diagnosis earlier in my education, my education would have gone a lot more smoothly."

Recent Nursing graduate, Laura shares her experience of securing her first Nursing role, and offers her tips and advice for job hunting with a learning disability or autism diagnosis.

Hi guys, welcome back. My name is Laura and I'm a third-year student nurse. It's been a little while since I last completed a video. Third year at university has been a lot busier than what I anticipated it would be and it's been quite hard to find the time in between studying, working and applying for jobs.

And I've undergone the job application process for a newly qualified position, and I just wanted to share some tips and advice on some stuff that I have done as a person with a disability to help me in the recruitment process for a newly qualified role.

What support can your university offer?

Many universities will offer the chance for you to attend newly qualified open events at your local trust. I would highly recommend attending one. It gives you a chance to meet people face to face.

It gives you a chance to come into your local trust and have a bit of a gradual exposure to the environment. Because if you're going to a place that you've never worked to before, you don't know anything about that.

Coming into that environment and then you can go home afterwards, again, it just helps to ease that anxiety if you're looking at working in a new trust. For me, it was rather beneficial because I got to meet people face to face.

I got to meet a couple of people who did my interviews and got to get in touch with somebody who does mentoring for newly qualified nurses and experienced nurses.

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Mentoring and peer support

I found the recruitment team and I found this gentleman who does the mentoring and the peer support, and I've approached them myself and I said to them, what advice can you give me and what support can you give me as somebody who has additional needs who is applying for a newly qualified position.

I was quite fortunate in that this gentleman was ever so lovely he's dropped me an email and he's spoken to recruitment on my behalf on what reasonable adjustments I can have at interviews, what other resources I can access prior to interview.

And I would like to share this with you guys. First of all, I would recommend getting in touch with somebody similar to the gentleman that I spoke to, to see what they can do before you start applying for jobs. As a result of this conversation, I was recommended to apply for a support for access to work.

This is a government-run scheme where you can fill out all your details, you disclose what disabilities you have. This isn't just for neurodivergence, this is for any physical, mental, any sort of disability.

This is applicable to everybody you fill out this form and it's a government scheme where they will give your employer funding to make reasonable adjustments that you would need to access the workplace.

This is a government initiative trying to get people who have a disability into the workplace with their correct reasonable adjustments. Truthfully speaking I did fill out the form and I've submitted it and this was a month and a half ago, two months ago and I've still not heard anything back about it.

Finding employment with an autism diagnosis

As you guys know I have an ADHD diagnosis, I have a long-term mental health problem and I have also recently received my autism diagnosis. I disclosed this to the gentleman and after his discussion with recruitment, they've also put me in touch with the National Autistic Society.

And if you go onto the National Autistic Society's website, they have a returning to work or a seeking work guide for autistic people this guide online, I found exceptionally helpful It's a web page that has written information on it, but it also provides you with access to your local career services so that you can go and talk to somebody face to face.

Obviously, you just have to put in your location, and they'll find it for you. But what I found particularly helpful is they have a finding employment module on there, which is basically an online course that you can take to help prepare yourself for entering the world of recruitment and finding a job.

There's an Autism at Work programme, which is run in association with the Bloomfield Trust, which aims to increase the number of autistic people in sustainable paid employment by making employers aware of autistic talent and the benefits of a truly neurodiverse workplace.

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E-learning and online support

So this is something that they are running in partnership with employers, but for us as people who want to be employed there's also an e-learning course so this e-learning course has been written and designed by autistic people and autism specialists.

There are training modules that are uniquely designed directly for autistic people and this course is interactive it has reflective questions films quizzes animations activities.

And there are multiple modules and each module take about 60 to 90 minutes to complete. But I think this is quite beneficial. There's got a couple of examples of some of the modules.

Oh, these are all free of charge. Some of the modules included include a guide to the mental health experiences and needs of autistic teenagers, understanding autism, autism and communication, autism and sensory experience.

This one is particularly helpful for me, autism, stress and anxiety.

Women and girls on the autistic spectrum

Again, this is another topic that, you know, more men get diagnosed than what women do.

And I think this is really beneficial to specifically look at how autism impacts women and how that can impact women coming into the workplace.

Because I think my experience as a woman, I have found it extremely hard to get a diagnosis. Towards the end of my study, I've had a late diagnosis and I feel if I had this diagnosis earlier in my education, my education would have gone a lot more smoothly.

I wouldn't have had so much stress. I wouldn't have had the hiccups that I've had over the past 18 months in university.

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Tips and advice for your interview

Once you filled out your online application form and you're offered an interview, I just have a couple of tips and advice for interview. I spoke to my university prior to my interview, and I asked them, you know, how open and honest should I be about my additional needs?

I got told to not talk about that and to focus on the patient. So when I did go to my interview, the first thing that I done is obviously I shook their hands and sat down and I said to them "I'm really sorry, but I am exceptionally nervous right now, because I've not done this before and I might need a little bit more time than usual to process your questions."

My interviewers were quite okay with that. They were quite open and, you know, just like, yeah, that's fine. Take as long as you need.

I answered the questions regarding patient safety and whatnot, obviously entirely patient focused. But one of the questions was strengths and qualities that you could bring into the ward.

I actually used this question as an opportunity to state that I have strengths that are here because of my needs.

For example, I like everything to be routine and structured and I can't cope if paperwork isn't filled out properly, Because of my autism.

For me, a strength that I would bring to the ward is that my documentation is very particular and very meticulous so I was open with them about that and said, you know, that is what it is because of this.

And then I didn't actually openly talk about my needs further until the end of the interview when they asked me what questions I had.

Once I had answered all the questions that were graded, I then took the time to talk about what I would need from an employer. And this is where I sat down with them and I said, I have this diagnosis.

This is some of the things that I can struggle with. You can help me by doing X, Y, Z. However, if you do A, B, C, that won't be helpful for me and I'm going to struggle in this workplace.

And because it was at the end of the interview where they had already offered the job, what I was saying to them can't impact their job decision.

Be open and honest

Their job decision was based on my knowledge and skills, not how my disabilities can impact my life. And having this open conversation was actually very beneficial. And because of this conversation, I'm now being put onto a preceptorship.

And when I do start my new qualified role, I'm having this extra support put in place that I wouldn't have had if I wasn't open about it.

But I would say save it for the end of an interview. or use it to your advantage in an interview question but do try to keep your interview itself as nursing and patient focused as possible and then have those discussions at the end.

Moving forwards, I think having interview prep is the best thing that i could have done. I sat down and I spent a whole evening just researching what sort of questions are asked.

And again, for me, it's that predictability of knowing this is what I can expect. this is what's going to happen.

Going in blind, I think my anxiety would have just gotten the better of me and I wouldn't have been able to speak a word of English. I would definitely recommend doing your preparation. Thank you for watching.

About the author

Hi I’m Laura and I’m a student nurse studying adult nursing. I have recently joined the nurses.co.uk team and look forward to creating content in the coming months. I have an interest in learning disabilities and an amazing opportunity to complete an international elective in summer.


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