Learning disability nurse

Learning disability nurses help people with a learning disability live as independently as possible
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What does a learning disability nurse do?

Working alongside other medical teams and health professionals, learning disability nurses draw up care plans to ensure patients get the medical care and support they need to be able to live independently. This can include improving a person’s physical or mental health, teaching people skills to look after themselves and live healthily, and supporting people with everyday activities, such as managing their finances, travelling to college or work, or meeting friends and family.

Responsibilities include:

  • taking and making healthcare referrals
  • organising home visits to engage with vulnerable people and their carers
  • assessing and agreeing tailored care packages
  • coordinating reviews with health and social care professionals
  • arranging visits to hospitals and GP surgeries
  • planning group sessions to support people who have similar care needs, where appropriate
  • planning social activities and events for groups of patients
  • supporting community-based health and social care teams
  • ensuring full and accurate patient records are maintained
  • arranging clinical supervision sessions for your own personal and professional development

Your day-to-day duties might include giving practical help and encouragement with:

  • personal hygiene
  • dressing
  • using public transport
  • going on shopping trips
  • leisure interests or community activities
  • making and attending appointments
  • finding a job

What do I need to do to become a learning disability nurse?

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • an apprenticeship


You can do a degree in learning disability nursing approved by the Nursing & Midwifery Council.

Some degree courses let you study another area of nursing alongside learning disability nursing.

You may be able to join a nursing degree on the second year of a course if you already have a degree in:

  • a health-related subject
  • psychology
  • life sciences
  • social work

Full-time courses usually take 3 years.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), including English, maths and a science
  • 2 or 3 A levels, including a science, or a level 3 diploma or access to higher education in health, science or nursing

More information


You may be able to do a degree apprenticeship in nursing if you work in a healthcare setting like a hospital.

The apprenticeship takes around 4 years and is a mix of academic study and on-the-job training.

You must be supported by your employer to take this route.

Entry requirements

To do this apprenticeship, you'll need:

  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and college qualifications like A levels for a degree apprenticeship

More information

Volunteering and experience

You'll find it helpful to get some paid or voluntary experience in social care or healthcare work before you apply for nurse training.

Restrictions and requirements

You'll need to:

Related skills

  • Administration
  • Communication
  • Customer service
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Organisation
  • Patience
  • Problem solving
  • Teamwork
  • Time management

Academic route

  • Three A levels, one of which must be in a science or health-related subject
  • Scottish National 4 qualifications including English, maths, and science subjects
  • Pre-registration MSc, postgraduate diploma courses for graduates in health, or science-related degrees
  • Return to practice (RTP) programme for returners to the NHS

Vocational route

  • Some universities may accept Level 3 vocational qualifications, but entry requirements vary. Full information will be detailed on the university’s website.
  • NVQs
  • BTECs
  • City & Guilds
  • International Baccalaureate diploma
  • Nursing associate qualification (Level 5)

Related subjects

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • English
  • Religious studies

Where to find out more


You'll need to register with the Nursing & Midwifery Council.

Career tips

It's possible to do a degree in learning disabilities nursing and social work. You'll need to check that the course is recognised by the relevant professional bodies. Course providers can advise you on this.

You will also need to successfully meet the NMC’s requirements of good health and good character.

Further information

You can find out more about becoming a learning disability nurse from the Nursing & Midwifery Council and Health Careers.

Where could I be working?

You could work in the community, at an adult care home, at a client's home or in an NHS or private hospital.

  • Visiting people in their own home or supported living setting
  • GP practices
  • Based in education, e.g. a school or college
  • Supported accommodation
  • In a workplace
  • Hospital ward
  • Community centre
  • Prison

Your working environment may be physically and emotionally demanding.

You may need to wear a uniform.

Career opportunities

With further study and experience you could 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 learning disability unit. You could also move into other management roles, like community matron or director of nursing.

You could also go on to train as a health visitor.

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0

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