Queries about mental health and learning disability nursing Watch

Jarlaskald
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Some background on me: I have a fair bit of experience in care and support work (CAMHS, a special school for children with PMLD, supported living for adults with MH issues, a dementia service). My academic background is strong - I recently completed a PhD in anthropology and I'm working as a postdoc now. My PhD research involved a lot of direct contact with people who have mental health needs, doing interviews etc., and now I'm missing the hands-on aspect of my work. I know I want to work clinically in healthcare rather than have a solely academic role. But it's hard to decide which clinical career is likely to be right for me. I have severe dyspraxia that needs taking into account - I can't even use a tin opener consistently and sometimes I have trouble unlocking my own front door, so obviously my crappy motor skills rule out quite a few healthcare roles. Feedback from nurses in the dementia ward was that while I was slower than average at practical patient care (I will always remember a patient joking, "One of us is pitiful and I don't know which!" as I was trying to help her pull her trousers up after the loo!) I was good at building relationships with people who were very distressed and confused, and whose behaviour could be challenging. I enjoyed this aspect, so if I went into nursing I'd be opting for the mental health or learning disability branch. (I'm a bit disappointed that there don't seem to be any dual registration options for these.)

My main question is whether severe dyspraxia would be too much of an obstacle to either of these. My colleagues didn't think so, but then they saw me as a HCA and I wasn't required to do cannulation or anything like that. I'd also like to know about the similarities and differences between MH and LD nursing. I'm especially interested in MH problems in the context of LD, so which branch would be better for working in that area, or would either one be OK? I've met quite a lot of mental health nurses who did post-qualifying training in CBT or some other therapy, which interests me - do LD nurses get the same opportunities for therapy training? I've never actually met a learning disability nurse in the flesh before so if there are any around here your views would be extra helpful!
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paulbarlow
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it will be a big hurdle to overcome. but you can do it. ive children with dyspraxia and determination can beat it. obviously your always going to have difficulties with direct nursing. the inability to do some routine tasks would indicate that main stream nursing is less than ideal. the learning disability branch sounds a good option for you. but with your advanced learning have you considered the psychology routes your clearly skilled enough.
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mel_l218
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(Original post by Jarlaskald)
Some background on me: I have a fair bit of experience in care and support work (CAMHS, a special school for children with PMLD, supported living for adults with MH issues, a dementia service). My academic background is strong - I recently completed a PhD in anthropology and I'm working as a postdoc now. My PhD research involved a lot of direct contact with people who have mental health needs, doing interviews etc., and now I'm missing the hands-on aspect of my work. I know I want to work clinically in healthcare rather than have a solely academic role. But it's hard to decide which clinical career is likely to be right for me. I have severe dyspraxia that needs taking into account - I can't even use a tin opener consistently and sometimes I have trouble unlocking my own front door, so obviously my crappy motor skills rule out quite a few healthcare roles. Feedback from nurses in the dementia ward was that while I was slower than average at practical patient care (I will always remember a patient joking, "One of us is pitiful and I don't know which!" as I was trying to help her pull her trousers up after the loo!) I was good at building relationships with people who were very distressed and confused, and whose behaviour could be challenging. I enjoyed this aspect, so if I went into nursing I'd be opting for the mental health or learning disability branch. (I'm a bit disappointed that there don't seem to be any dual registration options for these.)

My main question is whether severe dyspraxia would be too much of an obstacle to either of these. My colleagues didn't think so, but then they saw me as a HCA and I wasn't required to do cannulation or anything like that. I'd also like to know about the similarities and differences between MH and LD nursing. I'm especially interested in MH problems in the context of LD, so which branch would be better for working in that area, or would either one be OK? I've met quite a lot of mental health nurses who did post-qualifying training in CBT or some other therapy, which interests me - do LD nurses get the same opportunities for therapy training? I've never actually met a learning disability nurse in the flesh before so if there are any around here your views would be extra helpful!
Hi, it might help you to go to a university open day, I found them really useful when I was looking to apply and I was able to talk to current student nurses and lecturers. They might be able to give you advice about which branch is best for you and about doing the course with severe dyspraxia.
I hope this helps.
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mel_l218
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deviant182, can you give any advice to the OP?
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deviant182
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(Original post by Jarlaskald)
Some background on me: do LD nurses get the same opportunities for therapy training? I've never actually met a learning disability nurse in the flesh before so if there are any around here your views would be extra helpful!
hi!
I've recently qualified in learning disability nursing and I'm my new role is going to be in a learning disability ward specifically for those with a mental health diagnosis.
mental health and learning disability nurses are the only fields that have the holding power of the nurse and can detain patients for up to 6 hours in a hospital setting. if you want to do mental health in the context of learning disability I'd advise learning disability.
No offence intended but those in mental health do not understand people with learning disabilities and often find it very difficult / Near impossible to differentiate between what is normal for the person and their learning disability , what is challenging behaviour, And what is mental health.
For this reason, my new workplace predominantly hire LD nurses rather than MH nurses unless they have experience and can demonstrate that they can do the aforementioned.
In learning disability we learn a lot about mental health as mental health is prevalent in the learning disability population. not only do we learn the academic side, but you'll see a lot of it in practice.
as a learning disability nurse you can work with mental health patients. you will be able to work with both adults and children, And dementia etc.
There are many nurses with dyspraxia, in fact a colleague of mine on my course had it.
not every job you go into as a qualified nurse will require you to do cannulation or take bloods or similar. It really does depend on where you may want to work. similarly, there are always support systems in place. Colleagues around you will be able to assist if a person does need bloods taken (quite often in mental health to monitor medication doses / side effects etc).
Furthermore, a learning disability nurse will more than likely know more about CBT before commencing on a post grad course for such as it's widely used in learning disabilities.
You can do courses like this as a learning disability nurse. Many learning disability nurses often become behaviour practitioners, epilepsy nurse specialists, diabetic nurse specialists etc too. After all, learning disability nursing encompasses all 4 fields. You can work with pregnant women (yes people with learning disabilities have babies despite some believing they shouldn't). you can work with young children, adults, The elderly, the dying etc.
roles available include school nursing, liaison nursing, prison nursing, mental health, neurology, brain injury, stroke, theatres and recovery, lecturing, community nursing, dementia care, nursing homes, the list goes on!

If you want to ask anything else go ahead !
I've found learning disability nursing is one of least understood fields and the one with a lot of rewarding opportunities!
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Jarlaskald
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Thank you, deviant182, that was so helpful. I really enjoyed my time as a support worker for people with learning disabilities and from what you say I think if I were to go into nursing this would be the best branch for me. What were your placements like? I'd be interested to hear anything about the practical side of life as a student LD nurse.

paulbarlow, I'm open to exploring anything at this stage. Clinical psychology does looking interesting, but to be honest I'm a bit put off by how competitive it is and the thought of having to do a conversion MSc before I could apply for the doctorate - MScs aren't cheap and I'm worried I might find myself £6000 down and still be no nearer to a professional qualification. I know I'm not exactly ancient but I still feel as if I want a more direct route into healthcare! From what I'm reading so far, LD nursing or speech and language therapy would be my best option.
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paulbarlow
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i would agree. deviants post shows how wide and interesting it can be. sadly our trust does not even have one whichis sad because mental health really doesnot understand learning problems. good luck i suspect your going to do well in whatever you do.
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deviant182
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Jarlaskald,

placements vary from university to university depending on what is available in your local area.
i Would have loved the opportunity to have a placement in prison but they dont do that here, or liaison nursing. whereas in others they do.
I arranged my elective in England where I was able to have a placement in liaison nursing and a forensic rehabilitation unit. And I loved them both!

I've had placements in day centres, children's ward, children's respite, a women's challenging behaviour unit, the community, a nursing home for people with learning disabilities...
The placements are an amazing opportunity to get hands on experience and see how others interact with people with learning disabilities.
The main thing i found was the ability to really see how mental health is dealt with in that population, as you'll find there is not a great deal in the literature about it.
I learnt how mental health assessments are completed, the various paperwork exercises involved in looking after someone who is detained, how detentions work, how the multi disciplinary team really work together to ensure continuity of care & that quality of care is maintained.
The placements can take a lot out of you when you add assignments revision and working part time on top of it! but it has been so very worth it!
I'm really looking forward to being able to do a lot more for my clients/ patients, and seeing their progression from a severe point of mental unwellness to being well and happy and being able to reintegrate back into the community.
I have learnt all my practical skills, some makaton along the way, how to communicate with all abilities, how to look at challenging behaviour, how to de-escalate situations, how the team assist with restraining people (students are not allowed to do this), working with SALT to ensure people are eating the right textures of foods, working with psychology, working with epilepsy specialists, with doctors, with various other healthcare professionals etc...
The list goes on!
More so, I've been given some wonderful drawings and memories from the clients I've met along the way & I will never forget them. I definitely know I could not have chosen another field in which I'd love as much as I do learning disability.
It's different every day and you never know what you may come across that day!
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paulbarlow
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oh the joy of not being allowed to restrain a patient. i remember as an auxiliary in a care of an elderly hospital this one chap sneaked out. and ended up in the middle of a busy 4 lane road he just stood there and refused to move. we must have been there a good 20 minutes before two mh nurses came. they thought it was dead funny. i oddly did not.
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Beckit
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Hi Jarlaskald!

I though my experiences might help you a little here. First of all, like you I am very dyspraxic, to the extent that last year I shattered and dislocated my ankle tripping over my husbands crutches which were hung up on the wall when I started crossing the room. (If anyone feels bad for laughing at that, don't. I think its hilarious!) Like you things like using a tin opener, keys or anything requiring manual dexterity are frustrating and difficult for me. This was only diagnosed when I was an adult.

9 years ago my husband was diagnosed with renal failure, which very quickly became end stage. He was very sick, and I quit work to look after him. He started haemodialysis, which is basically when your blood is pumped into a machine to clean it before putting it back. The dialysis routine of going into a clinic for up to 12 hours a day 3 times a week very quickly started taking over his life and leaving him consistently exhausted. So we opted for home haemodialysis, which meant he could be dialysed for only 2 hours a day. It required me to learn hospital clean procedures, how to apply needles and take blood, how to operate the dialysis machine and quite a lot of general patient care. It also required me to do these things in a reasonable time and without panicking in an emergency, which we had quite a few of.

Now, when doing this process I literally had the man I love most in the worlds life in my hands. And you know what? I found a way. I wont say nothing went wrong. I dropped things, stuck myself with needles and messed up the paperwork more times than I care to remember. We had machines break on us, him right on the edge of going into a diabetic coma, and on one very memorable occasion an arterial bleed that hit our bedroom ceiling. When my husband had his transplant, and I went to go back to the nurses who trained me to thank them, I told them I was thinking of becoming a nurse, as I had been inspired by everything we had been through. They said when I qualified they would love to work with me again. I'm planning to take them up on it as soon as I'm qualified.

Dyspraxia makes it harder, this is very true. Especially while you are still learning. But I have found that dyspraxics are more adaptive than most people. We have to find our own ways of doing things, but they work. You will find your coping mechanisms, the ways in which you work best, like I have had to and will continue to, and you will make an excellent nurse.

We will both still drop things though!
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deviant182
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@paulbarlow I wasn't talking about restraining a patient although we are trained in that also.
detaining a patient under the mental health act is something only a doctor can do, or a learning disability or mental health nurse.
adult nurses do not have that power.
hence more mh and ld nurses should be employed in more 'general' settings to illustrate a greater understanding and awareness of mental health and learning disabilities.
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