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Behaviour Nurse Therapist

Clinical Practice
Career Pathway

Career Directions

  • Clinical Practice

Area of Practice

  • Learning Disability Nursing


  • Community/Primary Care

Job/Role Summary

In my role as Behaviour Nurse Therapist, I am the sector lead of an Intensive Support Service. We provide support to children and adults with severe learning disabilities. I have a combined managerial and clinical remit in service delivery within the community.

The managerial aspect includes supervision of behaviour practitioners/nurses and support workers, direct liaison with the wider multidisciplinary team, service development and setting service standards and audit. The development of Intensive Support Services across NI in recent years has seen a more integrated multidisciplinary model of service provision which in turn increased the managerial role of behaviour nurse therapists.  

The clinical aspect involves management of a caseload, completion of assessment, behavioural formulation, and development of positive behaviour support plans alongside individuals and carers. The clinical aspect opens up numerous teaching roles with carers and service providers.


Specific qualifications and experience required

I commenced my career in Muckamore Abbey Hospital in 1981 as a nursing assistant, eventually qualifying as a Registered Nurse Learning Disabilities (RNLD) in 1985. I gained a Community Learning Disabilities Nurse post in 1987 and remained in this post until 1997 when I gained a post as Behaviour Nurse Therapist. Since my initial nurse qualification I have completed the Certificate in Community Nursing (distant predecessor of the Specialist Practice Qualification), and Diploma in Applied Psychology, which at the time was and remains recognised as a specialist practice qualification. I have a particular interest in Autism and I am currently an accredited TEACCH trainer.


Career Milestones

Development of the Behaviour Support Service in my Trust area was a significant milestone for me professionally. After several years of gathering evidence and refining business proposals for the need and effectiveness for such a delivery model, the service commenced as a nurse led service and remained nurse led until recent years. Achieving Lead trainer status for TEACCH within Northern Ireland has been significant to me personally and as one of only two currently in Northern Ireland adds to this achievement.


Enjoyable aspects of the job/role

I enjoy the ‘predictably, unpredictable’ nature of working with people who present behavioural challenges; no two days are the same. The clinical aspect of my role would be the most enjoyable, coordinating and actively seeking out information about how, where, when and why behaviour presents with an individual and devising plans to enhance appropriate behaviours or limit the reliance on the difficult behaviours with the person.  


Advice for those considering the type of job/role?

I would advise learning disabilities nurses to take every opportunity available to develop skills in the numerous behaviour service delivery models that exist across Northern Ireland. Our nurse qualification opens many pathways to posts that may not include the title of nurse; however, it’s the core competencies of the learning disability nurse that enhances the holistic nature of a good behavioural assessment and the subsequent care/support plan. These posts will allow the nurse to use and enhance their skills for further career development, which realistically could take the person to clinical, education, management or research based posts.


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