It's vitally important for students to apply theoretical knowledge gained in the classroom to patients or clients within a practice-based setting.
That’s why most of our courses offer an equal split between placement and class-based study.
To give you an insight into what it's really like, read Samantha’s lowdown on her placement experience.

Samantha's story: A Learning Disability Nursing student on placement

A typical day in the life of a learning disability nursing student doesn’t exist as there is no such thing as a typical day in this field! You work with a variety of people and I have learned something new from every single one. There is an emphasis on person-centred care, on strengths and potential, on meaningful engagement and community involvement.

At the beginning of a shift you will receive a handover then reflect and plan for the current shift; nurses coordinate care and diaries are full of activities and appointments. Nurses work inter-professionally with speech and language therapists, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, physiotherapists, community nurses and GPs (to name but a few). As a source of current information you can promote evidence-based practice for colleagues within the working environment and many people who work in this area are caring, creative, proactive and passionate.

A lot of people with learning disabilities have comorbid health conditions and require physical health interventions. You will administer medication under supervision via a variety of routes: oral tablets, liquids, injections (e.g. insulin), topical ointments and medication, and nutrition via percutaneous endoscopic gastronomy (a tube in the stomach) and nasogastric tubes (in the nose). You learn a lot about medication and you have to be vigilant and have a good knowledge of contraindications and side effects as the person you are supporting may not be able to verbally communicate that they are feeling unwell. It is up to learning disability nurses to share knowledge by educating and supporting care staff and communicating concerns to professionals in multi-disciplinary team meetings. You will learn about capacity, consent and best interests and most importantly you will promote autonomy and include the people you are supporting; ensuring their voice can be heard by using their preferred method of communication.

You will assist with personal care which can involve assessment of skin tissue viability and general health as well as determining how much an individual can do independently with the right support. Wearing a uniform is not usually required as most settings are not clinical, they are often in the person’s home and this can seem less personal however you will still have to ensure you are dressed appropriately being mindful of infection control as well as being able to be free to move and get involved in a multitude of activities.

You will act as a health facilitator, counsellor, detective, activities coordinator, behaviour analyst, fitness instructor, lifestyle coach and much more. The role of a learning disability nurse is varied and depends on the individual, you can support people in a range of environments: home, respite, school, hospital, prison, employment. You advocate for people and find that it is often the social factors and not the learning disability itself that makes people ‘vulnerable’. As a learning disability student nurse I feel privileged to be able to practice holistically; considering every important dimension of an individual’s needs and feeling like I am able to make a real difference.