My name is Oonagh Kramer. I am a dual qualified learning disability nurse and social worker. I currently work as a social worker in the Western Community Learning Disability team based at Durban House, Bognor Regis. I am also on the Sussex Partnership bank and work on acute mental health wards at the weekends.
What’s the best thing about being a learning disability nurse?
There are loads of fab things about being a learning disability nurse, but the best thing for me is how creative we get to be. The people we support often need a different approach. It’s definitely not a one size fits all and that makes the work really varied and interesting.
What does learning disability nursing mean to you?
Working with people whose needs may present differently to others, understanding their needs holistically in order to support them, and those around them to live life to the full.
What’s your story - where and how did you become a learning disability nurse?
I worked as a support worker for people with profound learning disabilities, some of whom could present with challenging behaviour at times of stress. I really enjoyed direct work and getting to be part of people’s lives but wanted to understand more about the health and social care system and understand better the theories that underpin interventions within this system- hence I applied for the learning disability nursing and social work degree.
I now work as a social worker within the learning disabilities team, and do bank nursing on our mental health acute wards. I love the variety and actually within acute mental health settings I feel my learning disability nursing skills are really transferable - especially around communicating and considering what reasonable adjustments mean in practice. People with learning disabilities do come into mental health wards, and I think my experience and knowledge of the needs of people with a learning disability can be really valuable for these people and the wider team.
Have you seen any significant changes in learning disability nursing throughout your career?
I qualified in 2017 when I graduated from Sheffield Hallam University. Since then my main role has been as a social worker. I realise now that I am working in a multi-disciplinary team (a team that is made up of different roles such as nurses, occupational therapist’s social workers, speech language therapists) how important the role of learning disability nurses are within the team, and also how difficult it can be filling posts. There are sadly not enough learning disability nurses out there. Since I’ve qualified there has also been an expansion in terms of routes into nursing, with more nursing training places being offered through trusts as well as the creation of nursing assistant roles and an increase in uptake of return to practice. I hope this will increase the numbers who enter learning disability nursing.
What would you say to someone thinking about a nursing career to encourage them to consider learning disability nursing?
Go and spend time with people with a learning disability, spending time with the people you would be supporting at the end would be the most valuable experience you could get, and will definitely make you realise what a fab area learning disability nursing is!
There are lots of opportunities within learning disability nursing and it allows you to work with people of all ages. People who I graduated with have gone on to work within acute mental health hospitals, community learning disability nursing, private rehab hospital, forensic services, neuro-rehab wards in hospitals, third sector organisations, children’s social work team and children and adolescent mental health services, amongst other roles.