Making a difference? Understanding the working lives of learning disability nurses; 30 years of learning disability nursing in England




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De Montfort University


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Peer reviewed


The study aimed to explore the lived experience of the careers of learning disability nurses in England. The methodology was informed by Hermeneutic Phenomenology, and the study design utilised narrative interviewing techniques based on an adapted model of the Biographic Narrative Interpretive Method (Wengraf 2001) in order to explore the career choices, experiences and beliefs, and values about learning disability nursing. Twenty in-depth qualitative interviews with learning disability nurses, who had been in practice in the 30-year period between 1979 and 2009, were undertaken in 2010 across nine counties in England. The data was interpreted using a narrative analysis approach. Key findings indicated that nurses, working in a diverse range of settings with varying degrees of experience, are motivated by working with people with learning disabilities and narrate their experiences of building relationships with people articulating the meaning of this for them as nurses. The initial reasons for choosing learning disability nursing as a career formed a key theme within the findings, with complex influences on their career choice. Additionally, all participants in this study created a narrative of change, focusing on the ways in which change in policy, practice and in societal views have impacted upon their working lives and their identity. The individual narratives have also been interpreted to form a collective narrative of learning disability nursing to specifically explore the identity of learning disability nurses and nursing in a changing context of health and social care provision.



learning disability, nursing, nursing history, narrative, BNIM, Nursing Identity



Research Institute