This week (15th – 21st June) is Learning Disability Awareness Week and to celebrate this we have invited Nadine Falconer, a 1st year learning disability student nurse from Queen’s University in Belfast, to blog about her first year as a student nurse.
I feel very honoured to be asked to write a guest blog on Learning Disabilities in relation to Learning Disability Week 2015, where we all hope to raise awareness and break down barriers that people with Learning Disabilities may face. I am a first year Learning Disability Nursing Student at Queen’s University Belfast and I am currently on my third and final placement of first year.
Living with a learning disability simply means that the person has a reduced intellectual ability and may need help with everyday activities. It does not mean they are incapable, nor does not mean they cannot work and it certainly does not mean that the person cannot have meaningful relationships. This is something that people with learning disabilities often struggle with. Often, the people they have the most contact with are health care professionals. As a nursing student, I am fortunate enough to be in a position where I can spend valuable time with the clients and have been able to, not only provide healthcare, but also share in their everyday daily lives.
In my first year of studying Learning Disability Nursing I have been able to learn and put into my practice my new found knowledge. People with learning disabilities are unique individuals who can teach every one of us something. Becoming a Learning Disability Nurse is about empowering those individuals and being their advocate, to speak up for them and be their voice when they cannot be heard. It is not primarily about making the person better. We focus on the person holistically. We look at the person as a whole. We look at their communication needs, we look at how to improve and maintain their quality of life. We look at how to ensure that individual can access what you and I may take for granted. Anyone who is involved with people with learning disabilities, will know first-hand how complex caring for a person with a learning disability can be. The number of syndromes, and complex level of care some individuals require is astounding. This is where learning disability nurses come in.
As I progress through my course, I continually learn new things about the world of learning disabilities. It has been difficult but it has been so rewarding. I have danced, arranged flowers, painted, had the opportunity to go on day trips and provided care for someone at the end of their life. No day on placement has ever been the same. I have enjoyed every minute of my journey in becoming a learning disability nurse. In Learning Disability Week, I would ask that you stop and reflect on what you know about learning disabilities. Not all disabilities are visible and not all disabilities are physical. Aim to educate those around you and aim to ensure that those with learning disabilities are noticed and celebrated.
As I come to the end of my first year of learning disability nursing, I cannot help but feel excited for my next year and what is to come. I have felt exhausted, I have felt drained, but most of all, I have felt privileged to be part of the individual’s life, even if it’s only for a short while. I have met some wonderful people along the way; learning disability nurses, carers, parents and most importantly the individuals with learning disabilities themselves. As a learning disability nursing student, we play an important role in helping to demonstrate to the other nursing branches just what it is that we do. As a qualified learning disability nurse, or RNLD, I will be able to care for those with a learning disability from birth to their last moments of life. So in my next 2 years of education, and beyond, I aim to raise awareness of learning disability nursing. So if I could ask anything of you, it is this. Don’t think of people with a learning disability as unfortunate, or a sufferer. Think of them as empowered and educated. Listen carefully and take note, the future of learning disabilities is changing. I welcome you to be part of that change.
Nadine Falconer @ld_studentnurse