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My role as a teaching assistant involves teaching undergraduate students enrolled on the BSc Learning Disabilities Nursing degree course at Queens University. I teach lectures, tutorials and practical classes on an ad-hoc basis. I am invited to cover classes which are within my clinical and research expertise. The focus of my PhD research was in intervention design and promoting physical activity and community inclusion of adults with learning disabilities. My clinical experience has been caring for adults with learning disabilities with acute mental health and/or behavioural issues in an assessment and treatment setting.
I am a registered learning disabilities nurse, and I graduated with a First Class Honours from Queens University. I worked clinically as a registered nurse before enrolling in a full-time PhD program at the Ulster University. Working in academia on a doctoral program has given me opportunities to present my research at local and international conferences. It also provided me with opportunities to teach both undergraduate and post graduate students. These experiences have given me the knowledge, confidence and skills to fulfil my current role as a teaching assistant for undergraduate nursing students.
Being accepted into a PhD programme was a milestone in my career, as I had a keen interest in research from my undergraduate studies and was eager to pursue this interest. As part of my doctoral studies, I designed and implemented a programme to enhance physical activity levels in adults with learning disabilities. Designing, implementing and evaluating a unique programme to enhance the health of adults with learning disabilities was a complex and challenging process at times. Despite the challenges, it has been incredibly rewarding to undertake an original piece of unique research and contribute to findings in my area of interest. My PhD has also given me access to valuable training opportunities. My annual participation in the European Academy of Nursing Science summer school has been a particular highlight, which brings nursing PhD students together from all across Europe.
The role is varied and challenging, but working with students is a truly rewarding experience. The course is intense, with students having to juggle theory based work with clinical placements alongside their personal lives and often part-time work. It is immensely satisfying to build rapport with students and help them to understand often complex concepts in preparation for assignments and exams. Having the freedom to produce and deliver my own teaching materials in my own style has been fantastic, and I enjoy every minute of teaching. Working closely with nursing students to give them the skills to make a real difference in the lives of people with learning disabilities is an immense privilege.
This role is ideal for nurses who have some research experience and are specialised in their clinical areas. It is a fantastic opportunity for nurses to impart their knowledge on enthusiastic students and develop their teaching and presenting skills. For any nurses interested in this role, I would recommend prior involvement in research. Many nurses I come into contact with are afraid of research, or the thought of going back to education seems too daunting or scary. Though there is a lot of new learning, research is interesting, exciting and a great gateway into teaching.
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