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Staff Nurse

Clinical Practice
Career Pathway

Career Directions

  • Clinical Practice

Area of Practice

  • Learning Disability Nursing


  • Community/Primary Care

Job/Role Summary

Part of my role as a Community Nurse Learning Disabilities (CNLD) is to support the Specialist Dental Team based in Antrim Area Hospital when they are treating a person with learning disabilities. Initially I meet the person with learning disabilities at a dental clinic and complete an assessment of their needs, identifying how they will best be supported when they attend for day surgery at the hospital.  This might be as simple as ensuring a hoist is available for their use to being part of a case discussion alongside the Dental Team, Consultant Anaesthetist and Positive Behaviour Support Team and drawing up a multi-disciplinary care plan to meet an individual’s specific needs.   For many people with learning disabilities and those that care for them, undergoing a general anaesthetic and dental treatment is a very anxious time so on the day of surgery I provide support and reassurance to the patient and their family. Prior to their admission I will also have completed the new Regional Hospital passport and provided the ward staff with this. This gives them a snapshot of an individual’s needs and ensures person centred care.


Specific qualifications and experience required

BSc (Hons) - Registered Nurse Learning Disabilities

I completed my nursing degree in 2015 as a mature student. At times I felt like a very mature student but have not regretted for one moment my decision to return to study!  Since qualifying, I have been working as a Community Learning Disability Nurse within the NHSCT and for several years a Learning Disability Nurse from within our team has supported the Specialist Dental Team at Antrim Area Hospital. Since September 2017 I have been working in this role 1.5 days a week alongside my job as a CNLD.


Career Milestones

Definitely, my career highlight has been accepting a permanent post as a community nurse. From my first placement within a community setting as a student I knew that was the career I wanted, so when I was offered a temporary 6 month post as a CNLD I said yes immediately, giving up a permanent post in the process.  And thankfully taking this chance paid off!


What attracted you to this job?

Learning disabilities nursing is unique as the focus is on supporting each individual to reach their personal best in different aspects of their life. Having worked in different areas of learning disabilities nursing I see the negative impact behaviours that challenge can have on the individual presenting with them, their families and friends. Having witnessed patients receive intensive behaviour support and how this has changed their lives in such a positive way has encouraged my current career pathway.


Enjoyable aspects of the job/role

The best part of this job is seeing the smile and relief on the patients face as they leave to go home. It is very rewarding knowing that they have recovered safely from surgery and that the support and reassurance you have provided has made their experience of hospital easier.

There is also a wide variety of people treated by the Specialist Dental Team – one day you could be supporting a child of eight years old and the next a person with behaviour which challenges. The ranges of needs patients have and the support they require means you are always learning new skills and gaining knowledge.

I have also found working within an Acute Hospital setting very enjoyable and have learnt a lot from the nurses within the day surgery unit. Often opportunities for learning disability nurses, particularly when a student wishes to experience ‘hands on’ hospital nursing is limited.  Assisting in this specialist service has increased both my clinical knowledge and confidence, and every day I learn something new that I can transfer to my role as a CNLD. 


Advice for those considering the type of job/role?

Prepare to be flexible! You may be expecting and prepared for one patient to be told the surgery list has changed first thing that morning.  Also, be confident in your role as an advocate for the person with learning disabilities as well as learning disability nursing as a profession.  


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