Learning disability nurse

Learning disability nurses work to provide specialist healthcare and support to people with a learning disability, as well as their families and staff teams, to help them live a fulfilling life. 

Why choose learning disability nursing

There are many reasons why you should consider a career as a learning disability nurse. It offers you the chance to make a difference, a high degree of flexibility and a career with excellent employment prospects.

Working life

Children identified as having a learning disability are living longer, more fulfilled lives into adolescence, adulthood and older age. Learning disability nurses play a vital role working across the whole life span in both health and care settings. 

The main areas of your role as a learning disability nurse involve:

  • improving or maintaining a person’s physical and mental health
  • reducing barriers to them living an independent life
  • supporting the person in living a fulfilling life

Learning disability nurses may also help people to learn the skills needed to find work. This can be significant in helping them to lead a more independent and healthy life where they can relate to others on equal terms.

You'll work in a range of settings, including people's homes, education, residential and community centres and hospitals. You may work shifts to provide 24-hour care.You’ll work as part of a team including GPs, psychologists, social workers, teachers, general practitioners, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists and healthcare assistants.

'Learning disability nursing is quite different to other fields of nursing. It’s about enabling each person to reach their full potential'. Sarah Trute, community behaviour specialist 

Read Sarah's story 

Entry requirements

To become a learning disability nurse the main route is through a degree course at university. Entry requirements for these courses can vary depending on where and how you’d like to study so it's important to check with universities. You can find a learning disability nursing courses at the bottom of this page.

Typically you'll need a minimum of five GCSEs at grade 4/C or above, possibly in English language or literature and a science subject, plus two A levels or equivalent level 3 qualifications for an undergraduate degree. Some universities may ask for three A levels or equivalent. If you already have a degree, you might be able to study for a postgraduate qualification through a postgraduate programme. 

There are other routes into learning disability nursing such as nurse degree apprenticeships and nursing associate apprenticeships. 

Annual payments 

If you're eligible, you'll receive at least £6,000 a year towards your studies while at university. Your personal circumstances may mean you could receive more. And the good news? You'll never have to pay it back. Find out more. 

Other routes into learning disability nursing

Nursing degree apprenticeships are available with some employers and numbers are expected to continue to grow. Increasing opportunities to apply for nursing associate apprenticeships are also expected. This can lead to nursing degrees or nurse degree apprenticeships. 

Must have skills 

Don’t forget - academic qualifications aren’t everything. Communication and interpersonal skills are crucial, as well as strong judgement, be able to teach advise and manage people. 

If you're applying for a role either directly in the NHS or a university course, you'll be asked to show how you think the values of the NHS Constitution apply in your everyday work. 

Training and career development 

You could specialise in areas such as education, sensory disability or service management. You may want to work or move into management, teaching or clinical research.

Pay and benefits 

Your standard working week will be around 37.5 hours on shift pattern which can include nights, early starts, evenings, weekends and bank holidays.  As a learning disability nurse, you’ll be paid on the Agenda for Change (AFC) pay system, typically starting at band 5.

You’ll also have access to our generous pension scheme and health service discounts, as well as 27 days of annual leave plus bank holidays.

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