Learning disabilities nursing is a rewarding and varied field working with individuals of all ages, with a variety of complex support needs, in a range of environments. As a learning disability nurse you will play a vital role in improving the health, wellbeing, life chances and expectancy of people with learning disabilities. You will support carers . As a profession, learning disabilities nursing offers the chance to make a real difference to the lives of people  with learning disabilities and their families.

The role is about empowering individuals and their carers to lead fulfilling and inclusive lives.  You will be supporting them in having their physical, psychological and emotional needs addressed in a person centred way in order to enhance their health and well-being.  This means you need to be a determined, intuitive, sensitive and informed practitioner with comprehensive knowledge of the social, political and legal circumstances that influence practice and the lives and experiences of people with a learning disability and their carers.  To do this, you will have the opportunity to undertake a variety of roles within diverse environments.

When you graduate from our BSc Learning Disabilities Nursing programme at UEA, you will have developed the knowledge, skills and attitudes to become a caring and competent specialist practitioner. You will have graduated from one of the best schools of health in the UK, and be ready to embark upon an exciting career.

Following your graduation, you will need to register with your professional body, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and gain clearance from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). Once registered, you will be eligible to work as a learning disabilities nurse in the UK and overseas.

Learning disabilities nurses are in high demand. Around 1.5 million people have learning disabilities in the UK, with numbers continuing to rise, so there are lots of opportunities for graduates.


As a registered learning disabilities nurse you may work in clients’ homes, residential services, a community learning disabilities team, hospital, prisons, mainstream or special schools. You will support individuals and their carers across a spectrum of physical, social and psychological needs, developing long-term relationships with those you support to enable consistency of care. Progress may sometimes be slow, and you will need to be patient and focused to ensure you deliver the best care for your patient. This job can often be physically and emotionally demanding. You may be the one consistent link between the individual and other health professionals, so the ability to work autonomously as well as being a good team player will be integral to your role.

NHS Case study: Jenna Szymanski

Top Tip: Stay connected. As a specialist learning disabilities nurse you may be working autonomously and it may be hard to keep up with what is happening within your profession.


Once you have qualified, employment opportunities are plentiful. Pay and responsibility will depend on your experience and further specialist skills you acquire. It is possible to become an advanced nurse practitioner (ANP), clinical nurse specialist (CNS) or nurse consultant. Consultants work directly and independently with patients, carry out research and develop and deliver training.
You could lead a team of nurses in a residential setting or manage a community team or learning disability specialist unit. You could move into other management roles, like community matron or director of nursing.

You could go on to train as a health visitor. There are also opportunities in research, education and training.

As part of their professional registration, nurses are required to maintain a portfolio to demonstrate that they are keeping their skills and knowledge up to date with annual CPD (continuing professional development).




What would my starting salary be?

Most jobs in the NHS are covered by the Agenda for Change pay scales and as a recently graduated learning disabilities nurse, you will start at Band 5. Pay and conditions will vary depending upon your employer and competitive rates are offered throughout the private and voluntary sectors.  You should always check with the employer to confirm the pay rate for any post for which you are applying.

What hours would I be working?

NHS services operate a 37.5 hour working week which may include evenings, weekends, early and night shifts and bank holidays.

Flexible working hours will depend upon the post you hold - some services operate shift hours across a 24-hour period while others offer clinic hours. 

Where could I work?

A national shortage of learning disabilities nurses in the UK means that there are lots of opportunities for jobs and this demand is likely to grow.

You may work in clients’ homes, residential units, hostels and day centres attached to hospitals, or in mainstream or special schools. Opportunities available to learning disability nurses, include;

  • Community learning disabilities nurse
  • Acute liaison nurse
  • Staff nurse upon a general hospital ward
  • Forensic nurse
  • Prison nurse
  • Specialist school nurse
  • Nurse education
  • Nursing research
  • Epilepsy nurse

'Registered Nurse' is the UK qualification which is generally transferable to other countries. Not all countries have equivalents to UK qualifications in mental health, learning disability, children's nursing, health visiting and the enrolled nurse.  It there is no equivalent to your nursing qualification in the country you would like to go to then you will be able to work there as a qualified nurse.

Further information on working overseas


Employability Directory


Continuing Professional Development

Health Careers
This provides all the information you will need about health careers.

National Careers Service
Provides information, advice and guidance on learning, training and work opportunities.

Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)


Employability Directory