If you're preparing for an interview for learning disability nursing, here are some tips that will help.
"Learning Disability nurses support people to take more control of their lives, rather than remain passive consumers of healthcare," says Rachel Morgan, senior lecturer for Learning Disability Nursing.
"We are looking for people who feel strongly about this and about working with people with learning disabilities and their families."
The interview panel will consist of an academic, a clinician, and a person with learning disabilities - this is often a member of TRAC, our Teaching and Research Advisory Committee.
6 questions to prepare for
Tell us about yourself
Lots of people are unprepared for this or don’t know how to answer it. Don’t simply reel off a string of meaningless facts about how old you are and where you are from. Use it to demonstrate how you are a good fit for the role. Think about what qualities are needed by a learning disability nurse and the talents, skills and experiences you have that match these.
Why do you want to be a learning disability nurse?
We’re looking for people who can explain clearly and with conviction why they want to be a learning disability nurse. Avoid clichés like: I want to help people and demonstrate through examples how you do this and how you match the requirements of the role.
What do you know about our learning disabilities nursing course?
This is an important one to get right. We’re looking for people who are serious about a career in learning disability nursing and are fully aware of the commitment it requires. We expect you to have researched the course, attended an Open Day and thought about how you plan to manage the academic and personal demands of the course. Talk positively about why you want to study here and what you’re interested in learning.
Describe what you think a learning disability nurse does and what type of people or groups you might work with
Get as much experience as you can before you apply for the course. This will not only help you answer this question, but also show the panel that you are serious about a career in learning disability nursing and know what it entails. In this question, we are looking for an understanding of the role – what help people need; how to support people to do things for themselves; and the differences between this and other fields of nursing, such as adult nursing.
What qualities do you need to be a good professional?
Approach this question in three parts. Firstly, think about the qualities you expect from a nurse, and would want from someone caring for you. Read the NMC’s Code of Conduct. Think about the additional qualities required by someone working with people with learning disabilities who may have, for example, language difficulties. Finally, think about core values, such as respect, a sense of equality, and how you can link these in with the job. Use examples from your own life/career to show how you possess these qualities.
Tell us about your interests and what you do in your spare time
There’s no right and wrong answer here, the panel are trying to get a sense of who you are and what drives you. It helps if you can demonstrate how your outside interests ground you, support your values or beliefs, or will help you deal with stress.
Three final points
- Relax — remember to smile, project warmth and engage with the whole panel, always addressing the person asking the question.
- Be prepared – know your CV, the course and, above all, why you want to do this.
- Be confident – learning disability nurses need to be assertive and unafraid to challenge or ask questions.
You need to complete a pre-registration nursing programme and have excellent communication skills to be a learning disability nurse
In this role you will help people of all ages with learning disabilities to maintain their health and wellbeing and to live their lives as fully and independently as possible. You'll also offer support to their families, carers and friends.
Being a learning disability nurse includes teaching people the skills to look after themselves or to find work, and helping with daily activities such as attending college, going on holiday or out with friends.
You'll need to draw up care plans and monitor the implementation of recommendations and will work in teams with other nurses and health and social welfare professionals.
As well as helping patients to stay healthy and making sure that they get any medical care they need, you'll help their families and carers to take breaks when necessary.
The work is mainly based in community or supported living-settings and your tasks may include:
- using expert communication skills to engage with vulnerable people;
- interpreting and understanding behaviour and evidence-based outcomes to develop individual care packages;
- coordinating healthcare reviews/care plans with other health and social welfare professionals, and completing appropriate paperwork;
- organising home visits and attending GP clinic appointments to monitor and discuss progress with patients, their carers and their GP;
- planning activities, social events and holidays with service users (in supported-living settings);
- liaising with hospital admissions staff to plan patients' care needs on admission and discharge (e.g. housing and medication);
- carrying out group work on issues such as problem-solving, anxiety management, healthy living and behaviour management;
- supporting staff and carers in the community;
- assisting with tests, evaluations and observations;
- maintaining awareness of local community activities and opportunities;
- supporting the agenda for equality and equal access to all community and public services.
- The NHS has clearly defined pay bands on its Agenda for Change pay structure. Newly qualified learning disability nurses usually start on band 5 where salaries range from £21,909 to £28,462.
- As you gain experience, build your skills and take on more responsibility, you can progress to band 6 where salaries are set at £26,302 to £35,225 and band 7 where you can earn £31,383 to £41,373.
- One of the highest paid positions in nursing is that of nurse consultant where salaries start at band 8a, which ranges from £40,028 to £48,034.
These rates may be supplemented by additional payments for work in high-cost areas, unsocial hours or being on call.
Income data from Health Careers. Figures are intended as a guide only.
As a learning disability nurse you'll typically work a 37.5 hour week. This may include unsocial hours if you work in supported living units. If you're based in the community your hours should be more regular but occasional out-of-hours home visits may be required.
Flexible hours and part-time work opportunities are available and career breaks may be possible. Temporary work is also available through specialist agencies and nurse banks.
What to expect
- Where you work can vary. If you're based in the community you may be in clinic-type settings and/or spend time visiting patients in their own homes. You could also work with people in supported accommodation or with children in independent and state-funded specialist schools.
- Opportunities exist in most major towns and cities, but may be more limited in rural areas.
- Most learning disability nurses tend not to wear a uniform but may adhere to a dress code.
- The work may be emotionally and physically demanding at times but can also be rewarding when you see the result of your work with a patient.
- You could spend a lot of time travelling during a working day, particularly if your service covers a large geographical area.
To work as a nurse in the UK, you must be registered with the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC). To become registered, you need to have completed an accepted pre-registration nursing programme and these are only run at NMC approved educational institutions (AEIs).
Pre-registration degrees can be taken in four disciplines:
- children (paediatric);
- learning disability;
- mental health.
Typically, half of the course is based in clinical practice, giving you direct experience of working with patients and families. You could be based within a variety of settings including hospitals, the community, patients' homes and independent organisations.
You may be able to get accreditation of prior learning (APL) if you have a degree in another health-related or biology-based subject or other practice-based learning. Course providers will decide what subjects are relevant and whether you can take a shorter programme so check with them for details. A list of all approved programmes can be found at NMC Approved Programmes.
Before you start a pre-registration programme you'll need to have a Disclosure and Barring Service check. The NMC also states that all nurses must meet their requirements of good health and good character.
Funding support to help cover tuition fees is provided by the NHS for UK residents. You should contact individual institutions to find out if your course is covered. Bursaries are also provided to help with living costs. More information can be found at NHS Student Bursaries. For bursary information if you are attending courses in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland see:
You will need to show:
- empathy, sensitivity and compassion when working with patients and their families;
- flexibility as you'll be dealing with patients who have a range of needs;
- patience in difficult circumstances and because results may not be quick;
- assertiveness and the ability to advocate for people with learning disabilities;
- emotional resilience;
- good communication skills and the ability to gain the trust of people from a range of backgrounds;
- ability to work as part of a team.
Pre-entry experience is not always needed, although experience of working with people, especially care work with people with disabilities, is advantageous. You can search for charities that work with people with learning disabilities, which may be able to offer volunteering opportunities, at Charity Choice.
As a learning disability nurse, you can work in a variety of settings, including services provided by the NHS, social services and private companies. These include:
- day services;
- home-based care;
- supported accommodation (where five or six tenants live together in a house);
- adult education centres;
- specialist schools.
In addition, there are a number of charities and private and voluntary organisations that provide support and accommodation for people with learning disabilities.
Learning disability nurses are also highly valued within the HM Prison Service. There are opportunities abroad for those with experience.
Look for job vacancies at:
Job vacancies are often sent directly to course leaders in the institutions where nurses train and study. In addition, there are many specialist nursing agencies, such as Pulse, that recruit for both permanent and temporary positions. For a searchable directory of agencies, see the Nursing Agencies List.
Your registration with the NMC has to be renewed every three years. To do this, you need to show that you've met revalidation requirements within that time. This includes:
- 450 practice hours, which can be made up of providing direct care to patients, managing teams, teaching others or running a care service;
- 35 hours of continuing professional development (CPD), including 20 hours of participatory learning;
- five pieces of practice-related feedback;
- five written reflective accounts;
- reflective discussion;
- health and character declaration;
- professional indemnity arrangement.
CPD activities can include carrying out distance learning or attending conferences, workshops or relevant training courses and events. Find out more at NMC Revalidation.
Training courses are available in areas such as:
- movement and handling;
- child protection;
- management of aggression and violence;
- infection control.
You will also have the opportunity to further your knowledge and develop specialisms in areas such as forensic nursing, education, sensory disability or epilepsy management.
You could consider taking MSc or PhD qualifications through part-time learning programmes. If you work in the private or residential sector you'll usually be responsible for sourcing and organising your own training.
After approximately two years' post-qualification experience, you can aim for promotion, and/or further specialist study with the possibility of moving on to be a team leader or head of learning disabilities nursing.
With further training in specialist skills, management, or the development of teaching skills, it's possible to progress into:
- health management;
- specialist activities;
- supported-living management;
- nurse education or nurse consultant roles.
Other opportunities might involve advisory work for the Department of Health or NHS. Some opportunities, for example, management roles or teaching and research, may mean a move away from hands-on work.
Outside the NHS, opportunities once you've got substantial experience can be found in social services, voluntary organisations, private healthcare organisations providing community care, and in health services overseas, in both paid and voluntary capacities.
Another opportunity for nurses is working in prison services, in settings such as specialist secure units for offenders with disabilities.
See how well you match this job profile and over 400 others.
Related jobs and courses
UCL Division of Medicine Graduate Open Day
- UCL - University College London
Graduate Pharmaceutical Sales - East of EnglandView job