Is it time to retire the title learning disability nurse?
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Is it time to retire the title learning disability nurse?

Christine Walker @RCNi_Christine Editor, Learning Disability Practice

Is it time for a name change? RCN professional lead in learning disabilities and neuroscience nursing Jonathan Beebee believes so. In his article Learning disability nurse: is the title fit for purpose? (Comment, page 16) he argues that learning disability nursing is an outdated term that could be a barrier to a person’s career.

Learning Disability Practice. 27, 1, 5-5. doi: 10.7748/ldp.27.1.5.s1

Published: 08 February 2024

Mr Beebee argues that a change might attract and retain more people into the profession, which the evidence shows is badly needed, adding that the title ‘registered nurse in neurodisability’ fits in with the growing popularity of terms such as ‘neurodiversity’ and ‘neurodivergence’.

In terms of language, we have come a long way. ‘Mental deficiency’ was the term used in 1919, when the first nurses in the specialty were registered, to be replaced by ‘mental subnormality’ and then ‘mental handicap’, before ‘learning disability’ nursing was adopted in the 1990s.

‘We still have a long way to go in improving the care people with learning disabilities receive’

Other countries use different terms: Ireland uses ‘intellectual disability’, and the term ‘intellectual and developmental disability’ has been adopted in the US.

Language may change but, sadly, we still have a long way to go in improving the care people with learning disabilities receive.

The latest Learning from Lives and Deaths of People with Learning Disabilities and Autistic People (LeDeR) report shows that, while there has been some progress, people with learning disabilities still die from avoidable causes almost twice as often as those in the general population. Cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, followed by cancer, are the most common causes of avoidable deaths according to the latest report.

It is also clear from the LeDeR that the risk of premature death reduces if the care being provided is good and includes appropriate reasonable adjustments.

Join in the debate about a name change at rcni.com/retiring-ld-title

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