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Undergraduate study

Course overview

This is a very exciting time to become a nurse for people with learning disabilities, as a greater understanding of the health needs of people with learning disability is now developing at the same time that recognition of the needs of some of our most vulnerable people in society is starting to be appreciated. This means that people with learning disabilities should be involved in issues which affect their lives, should expect services to be responsive to individual needs, and should have equal rights and opportunities in society. This degree course gives you the foundations for a rewarding career in learning disabilities nursing. As a learning disabilities nurse, you can make a real difference to the lives of patients and their families.

From September 2020 all new and continuing students on this course will receive a £5,000 maintenance grant each year if they’re eligible. They will not need to pay it back. Full details here Learning disability nurses empower the person with a learning disability to have a fulfilling life. They also support the person’s family and are person-centred, values-led practitioners working within holistic approaches. Being a learning disability nurse means promoting social inclusion, equity and fairness, and acting as an advocate for people’s human rights. Learning disability nurses have specialist knowledge and skills in autism, have effective communication skills and champion practices that are evidence-based, creative and solution focused. Learning disability nurses help to promote health and wellbeing (physical and mental health) by educating, supporting and empowering individuals and families to improve their health, and live as independently as possible. As a learning disability nurse an important part of your role is to educate, empower and support the wider multi-professional team working alongside people with a learning disability, and champion the needs of the individuals they support. A large part of your role is in the community setting, including visiting people in their own homes, or within a supported living environment. Learning disability nurses also work in inpatient settings, respite services, clinics, or in forensic hospitals supporting people who are detained under the Mental Health Act. You may assist people with a variety of learning disabilities, autism spectrum conditions, complex physical health needs and mental health needs. Learning disability nurses work with other professionals such as psychiatrists, physiotherapists, psychologists and occupational therapists. Learning disability nursing is a diverse profession. Work involves elements of nursing that you may expect – such as managing medicines, giving injections and undertaking clinical tasks. It may also involve working with people with complex needs and behaviours which may be described as challenging. The public places high expectations and levels of trust upon nurses, and the course develops practitioners who can meet these expectations. It is hard work and challenging. Therefore to work within the healthcare sector it is essential that you are able to demonstrate the core values embedded within the NHS Constitution:NHS Constitution:

  • working together for patients
  • respect and dignity
  • commitment to quality of care
  • compassion
  • improving lives
  • everyone counts.

Throughout the course, as part of the placement experience, you will be required to participate in a shift pattern rota, or work weekends and undertake night duties.

Student VoiceThe School is committed to the development of quality courses and to the enhancement of the student experience. To that end the Student Voice is central to the design and delivery of the learning experience. We invite you to provide feedback at key points in your student journey and ensure that we respond to your feedback through our 'you said, we did' approach.

Professional accreditation

On successful completion of the course you will be eligible to register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) on the nurses' part of the Professional Register (Learning Disabilities Nursing).

During the pre-registration nursing course you are expected to work to the spirit of the NMC Code (2018) at all times - The Code (2018) Professional Standards of Practice and Behaviour for Nurses and Midwives, Nursing and Midwifery Council London

Please note 100% attendance is expected during this course.


Supporting information for applicants

Our School feedback policy (word - 278kb)
Our School reference policy (word - 276kb)


Course details

In the new curriculum there is increased emphasis on mental health and cognitive issues impacting on health - shared learning across all four fields of practice throughout the three years is a key feature of the course. The module content reflects the changing and challenging nature of providing healthcare in the 21st century and the evolving and diverse role of the registered nurse. Leadership is embedded in all three years of the course, recognising the crucial role nurses play in moving practice forward. All modules adopt a blended approach to learning and teaching. We pride ourselves on the quality of our partnership working involving placement providers and service users. One of the modules in the first year has been co-produced with service users.

Course structure

Year 1 core modules

Bio-psychosocial Approaches to Nursing Care and Decision Making

This module involves shared learning and teaching across all fields of nursing, to develop an understanding of the holistic issues that may influence and impact on the care and experience of people within different health care settings. You develop a broad understanding of the theoretical frameworks underpinning the discipline of nursing and identify and explore patterns and determinants of health, wellbeing and illness at a local, national and global level.

You identify and explore the knowledge base required to meet the fundamental mental, physical, cognitive and behavioural needs of people within their care. Research-informed teaching and learning will introduce you to the concept and process of evidence-based practice, which will enable you to take a critical approach towards nursing care.

Bio-psychosocial Development Across the Lifespan

You develop an understanding of human systems and the patterns and determinants of health, wellbeing and illness. This will include consideration of the altered and normal human biopsychosocial development. You develop an awareness of genomics, sociological, psychological development and their impact upon physical health, mental health, and intellectual impairments across the lifespan.

You will have an awareness of routine investigations which will then contribute to the development of your knowledge of commonly encountered physical and behavioural health conditions. You will understand the principles of pathogenesis, immunology, and evidence base for immunisation, vaccination and herd immunity, and establish an understanding of the principles of infection prevention and control.

Experts by Experience the Person's Voice

You develop an understanding of the centrality of the person receiving care and valuing and promoting reciprocity in every interaction. You will explore the philosophical basis and key concepts underpinning approaches to working with different people and service user groups. The biopsychosocial experience and impact of altered health and wellbeing, physical illness, cognition and/or treatment upon the person and family will be examined from the service user perspective.

You explore the balance of power within health and social care provision and relationships, and empowerment and the concepts of therapeutic alliances will be examined. The concepts of meaning, empathy, compassion, trust, connectedness and hope will be analysed and applied to practice.

Foundations of Nursing Proficiency: the Professional Basis of Care and Caring

This module will facilitate the development of fundamental knowledge and skills that pre-registration nurses must demonstrate when caring for people of all ages across care settings. The module content is linked to the Nursing and Midwifery Council platforms and proficiency statements combining theory and practice elements.

The module combines theory, practical skills and placement experience and incorporates the four fields of nursing across three semesters with students in mixed theory groups.Technology-enhanced learning is a key feature. Understanding the foundations of nursing proficiency and professional nursing practice will be developed through pre-reading, seminars and supporting of direct care through simulated workshops including role play, clinical skills development, simulation and the use of scenarios.

Introduction to Personal and Professional Effectiveness in Nursing Practice

This module will provide the foundations from which students from all fields of nursing will examine the role of the nurse as a leader and champion of high-quality, person-centred nursing care, professional practice and innovation. It enables you to explore the knowledge, values and skills required to develop your personal effectiveness and reflective practice. This exploration will be used as a professional platform to inform their leadership development.

You will be introduced to the theoretical concepts underpinning leadership and personal effectiveness including self-awareness, resilience and self-management, as well as the core professional values of nursing.


Year 2 core modules

Collaborative and Interdependent Working to Promote Health and Well-being

You build upon and apply the leadership and personal effectiveness knowledge and skills they developed in Stage 1 of the course. It focuses upon the nurse's role in collaborative and interdependent working with others, to influence and motivate. You explore how they can use their personal qualities and skills to contribute to, and promote a culture of high-quality person-centred care and a positive working environment. You develop your ability to articulate a shared vision and purpose to inspire others, engage the team and lead with care.

Developing Personal and Professional Effectiveness in Nursing Practice

You further develop your understanding from the first year module across all fields of nursing of the role of the nurse as a leader and champion of high-quality, person-centred nursing care, professional practice and innovation. It enables you to explore and critique the knowledge, values and skills required to develop your personal effectiveness and reflective practice. This exploration will be used to advance knowledge to inform your leadership development.

You develop skills to explore theoretical concepts underpinning leadership and personal effectiveness including self-awareness, resilience and self-management, as well as the core professional values of nursing.

Nurse as Investigator and Leader of Change

You build on the knowledge and skills developed in Year 1 in relation to the role, nature and use of evidence to support health and social care practice and service improvement. You develop your ability to critically appraise a range of evidence. You will explore how evidence is used to underpin national guidelines, decision-making and high-quality nursing practice within a clinical governance framework. To facilitate evidence-based practice and influence the improvement agenda you will apply leadership and change management concepts covered in other modules.

Promoting Learning Disabilities Nursing Proficiency: Developing Evidence-based Professional Care and Caring

This module will help you to meet the Stage 2 practice competencies and associated benchmarks, addressing the NMC (2010) Essential Skills Clusters second progression point.
You will develop the ability to assess and meet the fundamental physical and mental health needs of people with learning disabilities in a range of diverse settings.

The module will facilitate the application and development of your knowledge and skills needed to nurse adult clients. Understanding of professional nursing practice will be through shared key lectures with students on all fields of nursing and learning disability field-related workshops. You will engage in a variety of specific workshops which will focus upon clinical skills relevant to the range of diverse learning disability care settings.

Therapeutic Nursing in Learning Disabilities Nursing

You explore the nature and focus of therapeutic practice in learning disability nursing across service user journeys. You build upon your knowledge and understanding of altered pathophysiology, cognition and health/wellbeing. This will enable you to further develop your ability to formulate evidence-based, person-centred decisions within a biopsychosocial context.

The principles and impact of nursing care for patients with co-morbidity and associated physical and psychosocial conditions will be examined. You will explore the complexity of contemporary health and social care practice, this will include how services are delivered, resource management and the individual needs of people accessing nursing settings.


Final-year core modules

Enhanced Person-centred Assessment and Decision Making Skills in Learning Disabilities Nursing

You gain the knowledge, understanding and skills required to undertake enhanced holistic assessments of people accessing learning disability nursing services. You develop your ability to work in partnership with people across the lifespan in a range of primary, secondary and tertiary care environments.

You develop history taking skills to enable you to explore the presenting problems, precipitating factors, predisposing influences, perpetuating and protective factors relevant to the individual. The needs of the families and carers will also be considered within a person centred approach. Interpretation of assessment and evaluation data and how this informs evidence-based nursing diagnosis, liaison and referral to the appropriate member of the integrated team will be explored. The nurse’s accountability and scope of practice will be examined within the context of the NMC Code.

Enhanced Therapeutic Practice in Learning Disabilities Nursing

You explore complex therapeutic person-centred decision making within learning disabilities nursing practice. This enables you to further develop the knowledge and decision making skills required to proactively manage the health care needs of people accessing learning disabilities nursing services within primary secondary and tertiary care settings. It also equips you with the knowledge and skills required to promote evidence-based decision making and integrated team working when managing people’s complex care needs.

You will build upon your knowledge and understanding of altered pathophysiology, cognition, health and wellbeing. Therapeutic nursing practice and interventions including applied pharmacology and bio-psychosocial approaches to care will be examined throughout the module.

Enhancing Learning Disabilities Nursing Proficiency: Leading Evidence-based Professional and Caring Practice

You focus upon the quality improvement agenda and using a systematic approach to improving the safety, effectiveness and people’s experience of care. You will further develop your knowledge and understanding of the role of the nurse and evidence in relation to entrepreneurship in the context of service improvement. You consolidate, enhance and apply the skills and attributes you will need to enable you to develop and carry out a service improvement initiative in the workplace.

Nursing Improvement and Entrepreneurship

You focuses on enhancing skills and attributes to enable you to explore systematic approaches to develop the quality improvement agenda and improve the safety, effectiveness and people’s experience of care. The role of the nurse in this context will be explored. You will develop and propose a service improvement initiative in the workplace utilising enhanced knowledge and understanding of the tools, techniques and models linked to successful improvement initiatives in health care practice.


Modules offered may vary.


How you learn

50% of the learning time is spent engaging in University or self-managed learning activities (theory) and 50% of the time is spent within placement allocations (practice).

The teaching week during theory/study blocks is Monday to Friday and may involve some evening sessions. During practice allocations you are required to complete the shift patterns allocated to you by your assessor or supervisor. These will include early starts (for example a shift may start at 7.00am and finish at 8.00pm), night duty and weekend shifts.

The structure and sequencing of University and placement-based learning means that holidays are fixed - it is not possible to take holidays outside of the set dates.

During University-based learning you engage in a range of both teacher-led and student-led activities. Such activities include lectures, discussions, group activities, seminar presentations, tutorials, skills workshops, experiential learning / simulations, service user-focused activities and e-learning. Digital competency and learning through digital based platform is an important component of the course.

Practice placements are provided in a range of settings which may include the service user’s home, short stay and hospital environments, schools and day services. The people with learning disabilities that you come into contact with may need help with needs in areas such as communication, daily livings skills, challenging behaviour and mental health issues; preventative, acute and long-term healthcare provision. As part of your placement allocation journey, there are opportunities to gain experience with client groups from other fields of nursing (mental health, adult and children’s nursing) to enable you to develop an understanding of the health and nursing needs of people across all fields of practice.

Travel to placements
The range of placements provide diverse and rewarding learning experiences. Placements may not be near to your home or within your local trust. You are expected to travel to different areas.

Both practice and theory learning experiences enable you to explore the service users’ journey, developing knowledge and experience of nursing and healthcare needs within services across the age continuum.

How you are assessed

Assessments are varied and reflect module outcomes. They include written assignments, examinations, case studies and presentations. You are also assessed in practice through a Practice Assessment Documentation (PAD). Essential practice proficiencies contained within the PAD, linked to the NMC platform, communication and relationship management skills and nursing procedures skills must be met for this course. These platforms are:

  • Being an accountable professional
  • Promoting health and preventing ill health
  • Assessing needs and planning care
  • Providing and evaluating care
  • Leading and managing nursing care and working in teams
  • Improving safety and quality of care
  • Coordinating care.

Our Disability Services team provide an inclusive and empowering learning environment and have specialist staff to support disabled students access any additional tailored resources needed. If you have a specific learning difficulty, mental health condition, autism, sensory impairment, chronic health condition or any other disability please contact a Disability Services as early as possible.
Find out more about our disability services

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Find out more about our course related costs


Entry requirements

Entry requirements

Call us on 0800 952 0226 about our entry requirements

For additional information please see our entry requirements

International applicants can find out what qualifications they need by visiting Your Country

You can gain considerable knowledge from work, volunteering and life. Under recognition of prior learning (RPL) you may be awarded credit for this which can be credited towards the course you want to study.
Find out more about RPL



Career opportunities

A diverse range of career opportunities are available within the NHS and private sectors in the UK and overseas. This course provides a stepping stone from which you can develop your expertise in the fields of nursing practice, leadership, research, education and consultancy.


Information for international applicants


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Entry to 2020/21 academic year

Fee for UK/EU applicants
£9,250 a year

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Fee for international applicants
£13,000 a year

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