As we shine a light on the #BestOfNursing for #NursesDay2022, Senior Registered Nurse, Liz, has kindly shared a blog, speaking about her specialist role as a Learning Disabilities Nurse at Demelza:

"I’m Liz, one of Demelza’s learning disability nurses; I also lead child behaviour training sessions for care staff across all three of our hospice sites.

"Being a learning disability nurse means being open to change and new ideas because it’s a field that’s constantly developing; you can never be an “expert” in learning disabilities because our understanding of them is always shifting, and Demelza really supports that viewpoint. The reason I’ve worked here for 10 years is that they’re not interested in being a static organisation, we’re always learning and evolving our services to match the needs of the children we look after. It’s great to work for an organisation that understands the need for that flexibility.

"At the start of my career (before Demelza), I would quite often encounter the attitude that I was “just a learning disability nurse” as if that was somehow less impressive than being a paediatric nurse, on the more clinical side of things; that’s an attitude I take a lot of satisfaction in challenging! The skills I have are imperative to ensure children with learning disabilities have the same access to services, and the same access to healthcare, as any other child.

"Naturally, that also means breaking down a lot of barriers and challenging people’s perceptions of things like behaviour. We have autistic children who come to Demelza and have what you might call “challenging” behaviour – they might throw a lot of tantrums, or they might shut down altogether if they’re in an unfamiliar situation, and there’s a whole range of behaviours along that spectrum as well. Without advocates like myself, who understand where that behaviour is coming from and how to engage with it, children might be written off as being naughty or difficult when they actually just need more help.

"Demelza has been really great about supporting that advocacy; in the past, they’ve provided opportunities for me to attend special behaviour training courses so that I’m up-to-date on the latest learnings and research, and more recently they’ve given me the chance to disseminate those learnings to other care staff in my own tailored training sessions.

"Many of our care staff come from hospitals and are experts in clinical paediatric care, but when they first arrive at Demelza they can really struggle with managing the behavioural side of things. Obviously, I can’t condense everything I know about behaviour into a six-hour course, but the training sessions I put on help staff to recognise the child's anxieties and things that may trigger negative responses. It also teaches the staff to regulate their own behaviour and responses to that child to ensure they remain calm, provide clear communication, and recognise early signs that the child is becoming agitated or anxious.

"You can see the impact of these sessions across the organisation. The staff I work with have more confidence in caring for children with more complex behavioural needs, and recognise ways they can address their own habits; the children, meanwhile, are able to access expert clinical care in a less stressful environment that’s better tailored to their unique needs."

"I’m so proud of where we are now as an organisation, and how well we work as a team to provide some of the best specialist care to children with life-limiting conditions."

"Having a blend of behavioural skills like mine, and clinical skills in the rest of the team, means we’re not only well-equipped but also really passionate about the work that we do. I’m excited for the future too; we’ll never be a special behaviour care unit, but we’re able to offer drastically better care for children with learning disabilities than we were when I started, and I can’t wait to see how we improve our services in another 5 years’ time."

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