Real-life story: Paula

How I got into the role

I have been qualified for almost 18 years. In that time I have had a number of roles and worked across the lifespan with people with learning disabilities.

I always had an interest in working with people whose behaviour is described as challenging and I worked in a residential setting for adults when I first qualified, before moving to an assessment and treatment unit.  After that I went to work for an all-age community challenging behaviour service; this was my dream job at the time. I am very analytical and like to find the answers to things, seeking out the pieces of a puzzle that combine to create the conditions in which challenging behaviour can happen. I worked closely with people with learning disabilities, their families, and supporters to increase quality of life, understand the drivers behind behaviour, and teach new skills. This meant that every day was different and I got to make a real difference in people’s lives. After nine years in the team, and completing the M.Sc in positive approaches to challenging behaviour, I moved into teaching.

I worked as a senior lecturer in two universities (one in the North East and one in Wales) and I completed the PGC during this time. This meant supporting students and seeing their confidence and knowledge base grow, facilitating their progression to confident and competent practitioners, and contributing to the development of the profession.

What I do

I am able to maintain connections through networking and social media, and I’ve developed a network of online and off-line colleagues, champions, and ‘check-ins’ that keep me connected with various elements of practice and research, helping me bounce thoughts around and share ideas about the things that are important in our profession and to the people who use our services, and many opportunities have come my way because I have been active in these forums.

I have continued to develop as I have become a nurse consultant and have been involved in many pieces of work that have been about increasing the quality of the service for people with learning disabilities. I constantly engage with people about their needs, wants, and wishes for a service, and support the ongoing development of colleagues and the future workforce. I work closely with the heads of nursing and our nurse director to take forward quality improvements, learn from incidents, and feedback and improve the overall experience of people with learning disabilities and their families.

The best bits

I see my role as very important in furthering the opportunities, potential, and aspirations of others. I enjoy encouraging colleagues to engage in a way that suits their role and meets their needs, and to be visible, vocal, and valued as a professional who is leading the way in their way, with the work that they do.