Real-life story: Diana

How I got into the role

I was a Special Educational Needs (SEN) teaching assistant for 15 years, working in a specialist autism provision and also in mainstream schools supporting children in reception class with autism. I also worked in a local college for young people with physical and learning disabilities. I retrained at the age of 46 and was 51 when I graduated as a Registered Nurse (Learning Disabilities) RNLD, a learning disability nurse!

I decided to become a learning disability nurse because my contract at the college came to an end and I didn’t want to go back into an education setting. I also have two autistic sons. I decided, with the support of my husband, to retrain as a learning disability nurse, completing the Access to Healthcare course prior to completing the degree. Working as a teaching assistant was great, but I felt I wasn’t taken seriously, and my views weren’t respected. I feel strongly about equity of care and education for children and adults with disabilities and autism, and by gaining this qualification, I feel my own voice is louder. This means that I can help more people.

What I do

Each day is different. I hold a caseload of adults with learning disabilities, some of whom also have complex health conditions, mental health difficulties, autism, and forensic backgrounds. I help with health facilitation and access to treatment, I carry out a variety of assessments, and can refer to other services. I support families and carers and facilitate training. I organise and attend meetings, including best-interest meetings.

The best bits

For me, the best part of my job is knowing that I can make a real difference to people’s lives. I enjoy working as part of a team to ensure the best outcomes for everyone on my caseload. This can include healthcare support workers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, social workers, and the criminal justice system.

I would recommend becoming a registered nurse – learning disabilities because every day is different, and there is a wide range of roles available, not only in learning disability services, but also in mental health services and in acute hospitals. We work with people right across the lifespan. As a registered nurse – learning disabilities, we build up trusting relationships with our patients, their families, and their carers.