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Advanced Practitioner and Manager

Leadership & Management
Career Pathway

Career Directions

  • Management

Area of Practice

  • Learning Disability Nursing


  • Community/Primary Care

Job/Role Summary

When I started my career as a Registered Nurse Learning Disabilities (RNLD) in 2001, my first post was in inpatient setting for individuals with an intellectual disability, many of who had a forensic history that presented with behaviours that challenge, including serious physical aggression.

This wasn’t the easiest place to start my career, but from my first experience as a student nurse I loved working with this group of patients - I really enjoyed the variety and challenges that each day brought, and was fascinated by how the outcome of each situation was so dependent on the skill of the nurse dealing with it.

It was here that I quickly learned that gender and physical attributes were not the most important features when it came to managing patients presenting with aggression however empathy, compassion and the ability to contain anxiety, remain positive and solution focused were key skills to practice daily.   I have continued to draw on my experiences in this setting regularly throughout my career.

I developed an interest in this area and moved to a community based behaviour service for adults and children whom present with behaviours that challenge in 2005.At that juncture I didn’t feel fully skilled to meet the needs of this patient group, therefore I undertook further study to MSc level in behaviour analysis.

The knowledge base gained through this study proved invaluable in terms of managing complex cases as an individual practitioner and with multidisciplinary colleagues. I stayed in this role for 7 years before moving to a regional role in the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) in 2012.

I took a job in RQIA as I wanted to see what was happening in other areas, and learn more with a view to sharing good practice. My job in RQIA involved working in both mental health and intellectual disability settings and further highlighted the need to develop community based services, with a particular focus on the role of nurses within such services.

In 2015 I took up my current post as clinician and manager to set up Intellectual Disability CAMHS in the Southern Health and Social Care Trust. This is Northern Ireland’s first and only community based fully integrated CAMHS team for children and young people with an intellectual disability


Specific qualifications and experience required

I initially graduated with a Diploma in Nursing Studies from Queen’s University Belfast in 2001. I went on to study for my BSc in Health studies and graduated from the same university in 2003.  I have undertaken extensive post graduate study obtaining a Postgraduate certificate in Health and Social Care from University of Ulster in 2006; a Graduate Diploma in Applied Behaviour Analysis from University of Kent in 2007; an MSc in Applied Behaviour Analysis from University of Ulster in 2010; and most recently a Postgraduate certificate in Non-medical prescribing from University of Ulster in 2016.


Career Milestones

I have really enjoyed all the roles that I have worked in and have continued to draw on experiences from the earlier part of my career on a daily basis in all other roles I have worked in. My undergraduate training in nursing provided a strong foundation.  Post graduate study gave me the additional knowledge and understanding I needed to work with patients and contribute to the development and improvement of services.

I have met a lot of families at the point of breakdown, despite having multiple professionals and agencies involved over a period of years. Applying, evidence-based approaches that has brought about life changing results, always motivates me.

I was involved in a collaborative piece of work between the Royal Colleges of Nursing, Psychiatry and Occupational Therapy and the British Association of Social Workers to develop and produce a UK wide guidance document for staff (Three Steps to Positive Practice) which was launched in June 2017.

Improving access to services and the quality of services for individuals with an intellectual disability and knowing that we can do much better to improve outcomes for this population will always motivate me.

In 2017 I was humbled and privileged to be awarded the RCN Nurse of the Year.


Enjoyable aspects of the job/role

Meeting patients and their families at a difficult time in their lives and being able to draw on evidence base to offer assessment, diagnosis and treatment.

Working as part of a motivated and dynamic multi-disciplinary team that respects each other’s contribution and role, and is committed to working together to bring about improvement in our patients quality of life is a privilege.


Advice for those considering the type of job/role?

Think outside the box and always strive for excellence. Despite all the postgraduate training I have undertaken it has been my RNLD that has got me shortlisted for every job that I have ever applied for.  It’s a wonderful qualification – use it wisely to develop and improve services and contribute to making a difference to the population we work for and with.

Learn from and work with those around you, identify key people to help mentor and guide and challenge you.


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