Learning Disabilities Nursing at Glenside Campus - Kirstie

At UWE our class is great as there aren’t many of us so it feels more personal. There is a huge range of ages from school leavers to mature students. The lecturers are very supportive and as I’m dyslexic I receive dyslexia support from Frenchay campus, which is very helpful. Since starting this course I’m a lot more confident. It’s been great as we’ve had qualified learning disability nurses coming in to talk to us about their jobs so we get to ask lots of questions. It’s good to know where the job is going and very positive to see that learning disability nursing is evolving all the time, creating more opportunities.

Kirstie - Learning Disabilities Nursing Student, Glenside Campus

Why UWE

Before coming to UWE I generally wanted to work with people with learning disabilities. I had a part-time job and I did quite a bit of voluntary work with Time to Share who UWE are now linking with. I really enjoyed it so I decided to quit my job dog grooming to do it full-time. I’m glad I made the career change, I absolutely love it.

Aside from studying I have been working with the same family for four years, I look after a girl who is now eleven and has complex learning disabilities and challenging behaviour. I have learnt a lot from her and working with the family. I help to give the family a bit of time to be a family within their own home. I help by playing games that will help the girl with her development and giving her one-to-one support, as well as helping with personal care, for example, having a shower or putting her to bed. I also take her out on day trips or we go to the shops, really what an average child her age would be doing if she was able to. She will never be able to live independently however her family do look into ways that they can support her and how they could help her grow up with some independence. I am very close to them now and will miss them if I ever have to go away.

Best aspects of the course

The best part of the course has been the community placement, I would love to work there when I qualify. They were a really brilliant team and supported me when I needed them, but would still let me manage my own caseload. It was office-based but you do visit care homes and qualified nursing homes for learning disabilities, and have meetings in day services. It was more focused on supporting people to access services and educating General Practitioners. I found the classroom theory doesn’t always directly reflect placements because every workplace is so diverse.

We are also allocated a family placement which is very beneficial for students but having some experience of this I knew a lot about that side of the work. It’s good to see it from the family’s side and not just the person that you are supporting. However you have to keep your professional boundaries, sometimes it is hard but you have to go in with that attitude.

I have applied to do an elective placement in Romania for 4 weeks. The organisation has homes for people with learning difficulties and I will be working in one of them.

Additional benefits of the course

For learning disability students there is a specific conference I go to every year.  My tutor was very up for actively encouraging students to go. It’s a day for learning disability nursing students. There are about 500 attendees and they have students presenting alongside guest speakers..

I’m also a member of the Royal College of Nursing and have done a lot of work with them. I’m a student information officer there and went to congress which was brilliant. I have had the opportunity to make great networks with qualified nurses.

I am keen as a learning disability nurse to get out there and actually make changes to policy and social perceptions rather than just focus on what’s happening in university. I won a competition at the nursing conference to get some work produced which will be published online as an educational resource. 

I think the profession is definitely misunderstood, when in placements the reality is that you don’t just work in nursing homes, there are lots of other jobs out there and the role is evolving. It’s a very much needed profession.  I would say to people thinking of applying that you only get out of it what you put in. The more you push for change and get involved the more you’ll get out of it. 

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