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A campaign is underway to “flood” social media this week with stories of real-life learning disability nurses and the difference they make to their patients’ lives on a daily basis.
The aim is to create a “groundswell” of support for the profession during learning disability awareness week, which starts today.
“Learning disability nursing is all about finding creative, non-traditional, sustainable solutions to issues others think are insurmountable”
The project is being led by David Harling, head of learning disability nursing at NHS England and NHS Improvement, in partnership with disability advocacy group Changing our Lives.
Mr Harling has produced a set of more than 100 postcards featuring images of and testimonies from dozens of learning disability nurses as well as a handful of high-profile nursing leaders including the UK chief nursing officers and Health Education England chief nurse Mark Radford.
As well as raising the profile of the profession, Mr Harling said he hoped the project would help to inspire more people to consider a career as a learning disability nurse, at a time when there are 2,200 fewer NHS learning disability nurses employed in England than 10 years ago.
“The aim is simple, to promote the fantastic work of learning disability nurses, to celebrate the awesomeness of the profession as a whole, and to encourage anyone thinking of a career change to gain a true understanding of why learning disability nursing is such a rewarding career,” he said.
He is encouraging people to download at least five postcards and share them on social media, using the hashtag #realnursesrealives, with the aim of reaching at least 100 additional people from each person involved.
A letter outlining the instructions for the Postcards from the Brightside campaign stated: “The aim is to flood social media with the postcards throughout learning disability awareness week.”
It added: “At a time when learning disability nursing is facing significant challenges, it feels appropriate to honour us, and to recognise, how equally, we continue to play our part during these challenging times.
“Whilst doing this, it’s also important to celebrate the uniqueness of learning disability nursing. Given the increased public interest in NHS careers, it seems opportune to think about how we might create a groundswell to promote the profession and potential careers in learning disability nursing.”
Mr Harling explained to Nursing Times that the campaign started small, with him inviting a few nurses to promote the work that they did, but interest in the project quickly grew.
Once the initiative gained the support of learning disability nurses Christine Hutchinson, Becky Chester and Paula Hopes, Mr Harling became “inundated” with requests to take part from nursing professionals all over the UK.
“The aim is simple, to promote the fantastic work of learning disability nurses”
Among those featured on a postcard is Helen Laverty, academic lead for learning disability and mental health nursing at the University of Nottingham, and a member of the Nursing Times editorial advisory board. Her contribution to learning disability nursing was recognised by the Queen in 2018 when Ms Laverty was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).
Ms Laverty, pictured top, described the postcards as an “innovative way to engage with a wide audience to showcase the breadth of learning disability nursing”.
“It’s also about celebrating where we’ve come from, what we do and how we’ve ‘flexed’ our skill base to respond in these uncertain times,” Ms Laverty told Nursing Times.
“Learning disability nursing is all about finding creative, non-traditional, sustainable solutions to issues others think are insurmountable. At the end of the day, ‘together we are better’.”
The postcards can be viewed and downloaded here.