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Learning disability nurse

Learning disability nurses promote the health, wellbeing and independence of people with a learning disability. They also give help and support to families and carers.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £22,000 to £41,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 37.5 per week

1. Entry requirements

You’ll need:

A degree in learning disabilities nursing takes 3 to 4 years. When applying for a course, it may help if you’ve relevant paid or voluntary work experience.

If you’re already working in a nursing support role, you may be able to learn on the job through an apprenticeship and then apply for a foundation degree.

If you’ve a health-related degree, you may be able to join a nursing degree on the second year of a course.

You may be able to get NHS funding to pay for your course fees and help with your living expenses.

The NMC has more information about becoming a learning disability nurse.

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • excellent communication and listening skills
  • excellent observational skills to identify signs of physical or emotional problems
  • the ability to relate well to people of all ages and backgrounds
  • the ability to teach and encourage clients to develop their skills
  • the ability to gain the trust of clients and their families
  • the ability to stay calm and in control in difficult situations

3. What you'll do

You’ll work with people of all ages who need help with aspects of daily living.

You’ll assess your patient’s health and social care needs. These are likely to be complex and may be linked to physical disabilities, epilepsy, mental health problems or difficulties with speech, hearing or vision.

You’ll also make sure your patients have access to the right health services, treatment or therapy.

Your day-to-day duties might include giving practical help and encouragement with:

  • personal hygiene
  • dressing
  • using public transport
  • going on shopping trips
  • leisure interests or community activities
  • making and attending appointments
  • finding a job 
You may mentor and supervise support workers, and give advice to doctors, physiotherapists, speech therapists, social workers and teachers.

4. Salary

Starter: £22,000 to £28,500

Experienced: £26,000 to £41,000

Highly Experienced: £41,000 or more

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You’ll usually work 37.5 hours a week, which may include evenings, weekends, night shifts and bank holidays.

You may work in clients’ homes, residential units, hostels and day centres attached to hospitals, or mainstream or special schools.

This job can often be physically and emotionally demanding.

6. Career path and progression

With further study and experience you could become an advanced nurse practitioner (ANP), clinical nurse specialist (CNS) or nurse consultant. Consultants work directly and independently with patients, carry out research and develop and deliver training.

You could lead a team of nurses in a residential setting or manage a learning disability unit. You could also move into other management roles, like community matron or director of nursing.

You could also go on to train as a health visitor.

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Last updated: 13 September 2017