The challenges of a learning disabilities nurse, during the Covid-19 global pandemic

Ruth Northway. Professor of Learning Disability Nursing. OBE. June 2016. Neil Gibson

Learning disability nurses support people of all ages with a learning disability and work in partnership with individuals, family carers and supporters to provide specialist healthcare. 

Ruth Northway OBE was the first Professor of Learning Disability Nursing in the UK and was the second learning disability nurse to be awarded a Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Fellowship.

Ruth is an integral part of the teaching staff here at USW and was honoured with the RCN Wales Chief Nursing Officers’ Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2018:

“There is a lot of uncertainty in all areas of life at the moment, and nursing is not exempt. When I started my training, there was uncertainty, but it was for other reasons. Forty-one years later, and I'm still a learning disability nurse.

People with learning disabilities experience many inequalities with regards to health, which have only further been highlighted by Covid-19.

They and their families have been impacted significantly by lockdown, and the role that learning disability nurses have in addressing these inequalities is vital. For example, the people they support are often experiencing increased social isolation, difficulties with understanding and adapting to changes in routine, and reduced levels of support.

As learning disability nurses work in a variety of different settings, the way they provide support is also very varied.  Learning disability nurses have been working hard to help individuals understand the current situation, to reduce the risk of infection to those they support and, in some instances, have provided direct care for individuals who have had Covid-19.

I came into nursing 41 years ago, not because I wanted to be a nurse, but because I enjoyed working with people with learning disabilities and nursing was a great way to do this.

If I can contribute to reducing the injustices that people with learning disabilities face through my work, then that is reason enough for me to keep learning, researching, writing and working in partnership with people with learning disabilities to improve their lives.”