Recite Me

Our Nurses. Our Future: Ella Brooks, Community Learning Disability Nurse

Ella shares her favourite part of her job and why she loves working with people with a learning disability.

Ella is a Community Learning Disability Nurse and works in the West Norfolk Community Learning Disabilities team. Read her story…

Ella Brooks

As a Learning Disability Nurse, I do a wide range of work, from desensitisation work for medical procedures, to helping people who have behaviours that challenge, to completing dementia screening assessments. My favourite part of my role is doing work around behaviour; getting into detail about the “what” and the “why” and then coming up with a plan of how to add skills to a person’s repertoire that serve a similar function to the behaviour. If you can give someone the ability to get what they need efficiently, the behaviours often naturally reduce. The role itself can be a challenge at times, but every day is varied and I love what I do.

I qualified in September 2023, so not long at all, but the journey to becoming a nurse was a long one. I didn’t do well in my A-levels, and needed to complete an Access to Higher Education course in order to start my degree.

I’ve always loved working with people with a learning disability. My brother has a learning disability and is autistic and we’re close in age, so I spent a lot of my childhood supporting him. I got my first job in the care sector at age 19 and then spent several years working with people with learning disabilities. This was something I really enjoyed and whilst working as a support worker, I met a Community Learning Disability Nurse who was so knowledgeable, compassionate and creative. I hadn’t heard of Learning Disability Nursing before, but I looked into it, and realised that it was what I wanted to do. I’ve always wanted to work in the community, and now I’m here, I know I made the right choice.

I think a key challenge is raising the profile of Learning Disability Nurses. There are some misconceptions about what we are or can/can’t do, and the there are 40% fewer learning disability nurses in the NHS in England than in May 2010, as reported by the Royal College of Nursing (2021). Learning Disability Nurses are a valuable asset and we bring a wealth of knowledge and skill to health care. Recruitment and retention are vital, but it is also necessary to make learning disability nursing an enticing course for prospective students. There are also a lot of misconceptions about people with a learning disability and we are always striving to advocate for our patients and do some myth busting.

For those starting their career or thinking about changing their career and becoming a Learning Disability Nurse, the one piece of advice I would give is, reflect on the positive situations, not just learning opportunities. It’s so easy to focus on the things we didn’t get quite right, but we often forget to enjoy our successes as well.