Learning disability nurses across the region have been reflecting on the jobs they love as they mark the 100 year anniversary of their profession.

As they celebrate the centenary, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board’s 150 learning disability nurses hope to raise the profile of the profession and encourage others to consider a career in what they describe as “the best job in the world.”

Among those joining in the celebrations are Sue Williams, Sian Wyn Jones, Jayne Sterriker and Cleo Roberts, who have over 100 years of combined service to the NHS, as well as Kate Young, a third year learning disability student nurse at Bangor University.

According to Cleo, what makes the profession so special is its diversity, with learning disability nurses working in a range of settings from people’s homes to hospitals, residential settings and even prisons.

“It’s a diverse branch of nursing. You can support somebody to learn to use a cash machine one day and the next day you can be providing vital care to somebody” she explained.

“You have to put yourself in their shoes and imagine what they might be going through. I think it’s the best job in the world.”

“Learning disability nursing is very holistic and it’s all about the person” added Sue. “We don’t just see to people’s health needs, we see to the whole person and we’re there to support them in every way we can.

“It’s often the small things that can make a difference to the lives of people with a learning disability.”

Jayne Sterriker has been a learning disability nurse for the past 40 years. She said it was the ultimate privilege to work in such a rewarding role.

“It’s support for life. We support people from birth to the end of their life,” she said. “You need to be very empathic, understanding and be good a listener. You can work with people who can sometimes be challenging but it’s extremely rewarding work.”

It’s a view that’s echoed by Sian Wyn Jones, who has also spent the past four decades supporting people with learning disabilities.

She said: “You really feel for your patients and you just want to help them as much as you can. We’re so lucky that we can do anything we want but some of the people we support depend on other people to do those things.”

The way the NHS provides care for people with learning disabilities has changed dramatically over the past 100 years, with the closure of institutions and an increasing focus on providing person-centred care in the community.

According to Cleo, there’s also been a seismic shift in public attitudes towards people with learning disabilities.

She said: “People with a learning disability now have more rights and they are recognised as being part of the community. People are much more accepting of them these days, and that’s lovely to see because they have just as many rights as you or I.”

Kate Young is part of the next generation of learning disability nurses. She is currently in the third and final year of her Learning Disability Nursing degree course at Bangor University and was recently named the Nursing Times’ Student Learning Disability Nurse of the Year.

She said: “The opportunities are endless. There are hundreds of jobs available within learning disability nursing and it can take you in so many different directions. It’s almost like you become part of a family. There’s always somebody there to support you and everyone wants the best for you.

“The course at Bangor University is brilliant and I feel I’ve really found myself through studying towards my nursing degree. It really prepares you well for a career in learning disability nursing.”

To mark the centenary, BCUHB learning disability staff have planned a number of celebrations throughout 2019. They recently organised a garden party in the grounds of Bryn y Neuadd Hospital in Llanfairfechan, which was attended by staff, service users and their families.

If you are interested in studying towards a career in learning disability nursing then please visit the Bangor University website: https://www.bangor.ac.uk/courses/undergraduate/B763-Learning-Disability-Nursing

Photo: L2R Sian Wyn Jones, Kate Young, Cleo Roberts, Jayne Sterriker, Sue Williams