Danielle quit her engineering job to work with people with learning disabilities

Danielle Wood - Learning Disability Nursing

Danielle had a background in engineering and consultancy but grew tired of city life. She quit her job and up routed to a small community at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. There she found her purpose in volunteering and living with people with learning disabilities.

For Learning Disabilities Week, she speaks about her experience studying for the learning disabilities nursing degree at the University and the experience our students gain through undertaking wide-ranging work placements.

What inspired you to become a learning disabilities nurse?

I have a background in engineering. With four years of experience in consultancy and the drag of city life, I needed something more. I needed a purpose. So, I quit my job and volunteered to live and work with people with learning disabilities in a small community at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. And that was it! I’d found my purpose and my drive.

What is the role of a learning disabilities nurse?

Being a learning disabilities nurse is an all-encompassing role that provides holistic care to those who require support. The role of a learning disabilities nurse is fluid. So, you need to wear many hats. It's not just about advocating for those who are more vulnerable. It’s also about being an expert in complex health and health facilitation. You need to support behaviours that challenge and epilepsy. You need to be there for someone when they experience mental health challenges, providing and advising about social support.

Why is the role so important? 

Learning disabilities nurses break down barriers, boundaries and social constructs. They provide reasonable adjustments, allowing everyone to feel like they can have equal and equitable access to society and the services that exist within it.

Tell us about some of the environments you’ve experienced on placement as a learning disabilities nurse.

My first placement DRIVE was a support living opportunity, experiencing lots of activities, for example, their choir, which I loved so much. I carried on volunteering until the pandemic hit.

For my second placement, I cared for the elderly at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital. This gave me the basics of clinical care needs, such as making beds, washing, and taking observations. Doing this made it easy to join the Bank as a health care support worker, something I do most weekends.

I’ve also worked at Laurel's & Briary, a special residential service for profound and multiple learning disabilities and Ferndale which, specialises in behaviours that challenge where I learnt the true meaning of a learning disabilities nurse.

Currently, I’m based at Cardiff community learning disability team. It’s a wonderful place where you learn to truly understand what multi-disciplinary team-working is and the many different roles of a learning disability nurse.

Which environment was your favourite and why? 

Each environment has been so fulfilling. At the end of each one, I've decided I want to do that as my consolidation. But for me working with behaviours that challenge and working in the community have been where I've felt most comfortable so far. All placements have been so beneficial and rewarding in some way or another.

What opportunities have you had with TRAC (Teaching and Research Advisory Committee)?

I’m a member of TRAC, and it’s been a wonderful experience that has opened many doors, not just in education. We meet once a month to discuss training and research opportunities through the University.

As of late, it’s been online. However, that hasn’t stopped friendships from blossoming. I meet one of the girls several times a month for coffee and catch-ups, which I very much look forward to. And It’s where I first learned about the charities 'Stay Up Late' and 'Gig Buddies’. For the latter, I’m now a member and running for the Cardiff Half Marathon.

How has your life changed since training to become a learning disabilities nurse?

Learning disabilities nursing is so much more than health. It is the promotion of a happy, healthy lifestyle through reasonable adjustments. It provides equal and equitable access to services and society.

If it wasn't for Learning disabilities nursing, I wouldn’t be part of TRAC and have made a wonderful new friend. I also wouldn’t have known about Gig buddies and been buddied up with a wonderful guy who likes the outdoors as much as me. Neither would I be raising money for them or have found out about the DRIVE choir. I encourage anyone who is on the fence about joining to just take the leap - you won't regret it.