Learning Disability Nurse

Learning Disability Nurses work in partnership with people of all ages to help them lead active, independent and healthier lives.

The Role(s)

Learning disability nurses aim to improve the well-being and social inclusion of people in their care. This is achieved by:

  • improving or maintaining their physical and mental health
  • reducing barriers and challenging discriminatory attitudes
  • supporting them to pursue a fulfilling life.

Working alongside carers, social workers, psychologists, speech and language therapists, teachers and GP doctors, learning disability nurses help people overcome problem areas and stay healthy.

Skills, Interests and Abilities

Learning disability nurses must be able to use a variety of skills and techniques to communicate with individuals in their care. Helping people express their needs, and to integrate and engage with the wider world is also part of the job. Useful skills include:

  • physical fitness
  • teamwork
  • confidence
  • tact
  • good communication skills

As a learning disability nurse, you will also need to be:

  • patient and understanding
  • compassionate and sensitive
  • able to remain calm under pressure

Entry Requirements

All nurses working in NHSScotland must be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), once they have graduated from an approved educational institution. In Scotland, the list of NMC approved educational institutions includes:

The minimum academic entry requirements for nursing degrees vary, but most universities in Scotland require SQA Higher BBC grades, including English and a science subject. A pass in National 5 English and Maths grade A - C is also required, if these subjects are not achieved at SQA Higher grade.

Specific entry requirements, including other accepted qualifications, are provided on each university website. Visit the NMC website for a full list of approved educational institutions and nursing programmes.

Learning disability nursing website

The College Development Network has developed a Learning disability nursing website in partnership with Edinburgh Napier University and Glasgow Caledonian University. The website aims to provide information about the opportunities for becoming a learning disability nurse, including the necessary qualifications and different entry routes, such as for school leavers or adult returners.

Scottish Wider Access Programme – Nursing (SCQF Level 6)

This programme is for adults returning to education, perhaps changing career or seeking to gain the equivalent university entry qualifications needed for nursing. There are no formal entry qualifications, but applicants should have a good standard of general education and have been away from formal education for a minimum of 2 – 3 years.

Successful completion of the course could lead to:

  • A degree in nursing by applying to universities that participate in the SWAP partnership programme
  • HNC Social Care
  • HNC Additional Support Needs
  • HNC Care

Please visit the Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP) website for more information.

Modern Apprenticeships

Modern Apprenticeships offer those aged over 16 paid employment with the opportunity to train for jobs at craft, technician and management level.

The Modern Apprenticeship in Healthcare Support (clinical) at SCQF Level 6 and SCQF Level 7 is a framework for people interested in working in a clinical setting. For more information, about this Modern Apprenticeship framework, look at:


Learning and Development

During your first year as a newly qualified nurse, you'll get extra support and guidance through the Flying Start programme.

All nursing roles, along with rates of pay, are outlined in a national document – the Career Framework for Health

A registered nurse enters the profession as a ‘Level 5 Practitioner.’ They can choose to stay at that level, keeping up-to-date through Continuing Professional Development (CPD) or undertake further learning and development, both in the workplace and through courses. This can lead to progression through the career pathway to Senior, Advanced or Consultant level.

Nurses at all levels need to show strong clinical leadership. Students and healthcare support workers look to staff nurses for guidance and support, while at higher levels nurses may lead teams, departments or services. This leadership role includes motivating and empowering staff to treat all patients with dignity, privacy and compassion and taking responsibility for ensuring excellence in clinical care.

Senior nurses bring key knowledge and skills to specialist and multidisciplinary teams, while Nurse Consultants lead whole departments and services, informing practice and policy development at regional and national levels.

Once you've qualified and gained experience as a registered learning disability nurse, there are a wide variety of specialisms to choose from, including: sensory disabilities, autism, epilepsy, special needs education or combining your nursing training with social care work. There are also opportunities to move in to service management, public health, voluntary or private sector organisations, research or education. Many learning disability nurses combine aspects of these roles with on-going clinical practice.



Professional Bodies

Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)

The Nursing and Midwifery Council is the governing body for nurses and midwives, ensuring their knowledge and skills are up to date. Registered nurses must renew their professional registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council every three years.

The NMC website also contains information about registration, training and professional standards for nurses and midwives in Scotland and the rest of the UK. 


The Royal College of Nursing (RCN)

The Royal College of Nursing is a professional body and Trade Union which represents nurses and nursing. It seeks to promote excellence in practice and to shape health policies. Find out more on the RCN website.