100 Years of Learning Disability Nursing – Meet the Team

Posted: 10/12/19

This year marks the 100th anniversary of learning disability nursing. To mark the centenary, we have written a series of case studies celebrating the work of those in learning disability nursing.

Niamh Kerry, 21, works as a community nurse in the PBS Pathway team at Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW), a provider of mental health and learning disability services.

Having recently finished a degree in Learning Disability Nursing at Northumbria University, Niamh has been in her role since September.

During her three years at university, Niamh undertook a number of placements across a number of teams and disciplines, including in a community treatment team in Sunderland, an inpatient unit at Northgate Hospital and the Community Team Learning Disabilities (CTLD) that she works in now.

“I found doing different placements really helpful as it enabled me to develop my skills and see how different teams work”, Niamh said.

The third year of her degree was all placement-based so Niamh was able to put everything she had learned to the test in a practical setting. It wasn’t long before Niamh realised she preferred working in the community teams, saying that it was something that came naturally to her.

Niamh now works with patients who present challenging behaviour. A typical day involves appointments with patients, assessments and taking part in behaviour workshops to get a better understanding of the patients and their needs.

It’s the job of Niamh and the PBS team to meet the people who are referred to the service and work out the best pathway to suit them. The team works together to create a strategy that is tailored to each individual.

PBS (Positive Behaviour Support) provides support for individuals with a learning disability and their families to help people lead a meaningful life and learn new skills without unnecessary restrictions.

Based at Benton House, Niamh says the best part of her job is the team. “I find the work really interesting and being part of such a great team makes it even better.

“I love seeing the difference our work can make to other people’s lives, the impact the team has on people who use the service is lovely to see.”

Each week that passes by, Niamh feels like she is learning and developing more, which is thanks to the support of her team.

Being a learning disability nurse is not without its challenges however, Niamh says there are aspects of the job she is still learning as she’s newly qualified. She feels her skills will only continue to develop which will help in all aspects of her role.

Niamh is looking forward to graduating in December and says she can’t see herself working anywhere else.

The CTLD provides services to adults with a learning disability who have complex physical health needs, challenging behaviours or mental health needs.

The multidisciplinary team includes psychiatry, psychology, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, positive behavioural support and community nursing.