Nursing (Learning Disabilities Nursing)

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Students preparing a plaster cast

About this course

Accreditations and partnerships:

  • Entry year: 2014/15
  • Course code: B703
  • Applications: UCAS
  • Level: Undergraduate
  • Tariff points: 300
  • Department: Nursing and Midwifery
  • Campus: Glenside Campus
  • Duration: Three years, one intake in September at Glenside Campus
  • Delivery: Full-time


Nursing is primarily a practice-based discipline, which values human beings. At its best it enables people to reach and maintain their health and social goals in order to achieve their optimum quality of life. Nursing is founded on the premise that human beings have dignity, are worthy of respect and have individual rights, responsibilities, needs and beliefs. However, nursing is not confined to boundaries of alleviating sickness and suffering but is also concerned with the whole person and the promotion of health and wellness in individuals.

The role of a Learning Disabilities Nurse is to help people with learning disabilities to participate within society. This may involve helping with daily living activities such as washing and eating, it will include health promotion and supporting access to healthcare. The practice of nursing involves complex partnerships with a variety of people and agencies, with carers, families and members of other professions.

A Learning Disabilities Nurse will have the option to work in a variety of settings including residential care, schools or family homes.

Through a carefully integrated balance of theory and practice the degree course aims to provide students at the point of registration with the knowledge, expertise and competence required of qualified practitioners.

Successful completion of the course leads to registration as a nurse on the Professional Register held by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

This video requires javascript to be enabled and flash installed to view.View this video on the youtube website

>> Structure

Student's view

"I think the profession is definitely misunderstood, when in placements the reality is that you don't just work in nursing homes, there are lots of other jobs out there" Kirstie, Learning Disability Nursing Student .



Central to the core subjects of nursing theory and practice are supporting studies in biology, psychology, sociology, interpersonal skills and information technology as applied to health and social care in a range of settings. There is a strong emphasis on the development of interprofessional and interpersonal skills, which are essential in establishing effective relationships with people with learning disabilities, families, and colleagues in a multidisciplinary and multi agency setting. Throughout the course, research appreciation skills are developed in support of good practice.

The following modules are indicative of the course structure:

Year 1

  • Communication in a Diverse World
  • Physiology and Pharmacology for Nursing Practice
  • Appreciating Evidence for Practice Research
  • Building Positive Relationships with, and Services for, People with Learning Disabilities
  • Learning Disabilities Nursing Practice 1

Year 2

  • Meeting the Health Needs of People with Learning Disabilities
  • Service Improvement: A Collaborative Approach
  • Evidence Based Practice for Nursing and Midwifery
  • Learning Disabilities Nursing Practice 2

Year 3

  • Management of Complex Situations in Services for People with Learning Disabilities
  • Learning Disabilities Nursing Practice 3
  • Nursing and Midwifery Dissertation
  • Choice module. Options include: End of Life Care; Public Health and Health Promotion for Professional Practice; Nursing in a Diverse World; Evidencing Work Based Learning; Family and Carer Work for Serious Mental Illness; Motivational Interviewing; Principles of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy; Mental Health and Well-being of Children and Young People; Person Centred Care with People with Dementia

Please note course content and structure can change from year to year. As a result there can be variation between the information shown here and the course when it is delivered.

Learning disability nurses aim to ensure that the individuality, abilities and rights of people with learning disabilities are valued and respected. Because the care of people with learning disabilities is provided in a range of  settings, students will learn to work within a multi-agency framework, and will experience a wide variety of care environments. People with learning disabilities will vary greatly in age and impairment, and their uniqueness will need to be recognised by different intervention strategies and individual approaches. The course reflects current philosophies of care and developments in learning disability nursing.

Learning and Teaching

The course is run on a modular basis and delivered full-time. When at Bristol undertaking academic modules this will be between the hours of 09:00 and 18:00, Monday to Friday except bank holidays. However, the course includes a proportion of on-line learning and distance learning some of which is timetabled for the hours above. However, some can be taken within an agreed time period and is therefore flexible. The amount of on-line and distance learning increases over the three year programme.  Placements are a mix of office hour placements and shifts that cover 24 hour a day, 7 days a week. Being able to work shifts, occasional night duties and weekends is an integral part of the course.  

We expect you to take a great deal of the responsibility for your own learning as many of the modules will be taught using a blended learning approach. Blended learning is learning that is made possible by the effective combination of different ways of delivery information. This approach allows students to develop their knowledge and understanding by using blended resources which combine e-learning and e-tutoring. E-learning is the information technology transfer of skills and knowledge. E-learning applications and processes include web-based learning, computer-based learning, virtual classroom opportunities and digital collaboration. Aspects of the programme will be delivered using e-learning and supported by e-tutoring. Students will acquire skills in self-directed and independent study, research and the key skills required for any workplace activity. The course will provide an excellent preparation for future professional development, enabling students to transfer skills across a range of professional roles.

Teaching and learning methods range from lectures, seminars, skills development, simulation, on-line activities, service user and carer led sessions and student-led presentations. Person centred studies focusing on individual people is a core learning activity. Support for studying is provided by academic staff and during practice placements by qualified nursing staff.

  • Study themes running through the course include:
  • Nursing theory and practice
  • Nursing management
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Development of professional practice
  • Bio-psychosocial development of the individual across the lifespan
  • Health, wellness and illness
  • Health care systems
  • Interprofessional working
  • Skills development
  • Research skills

A number of these themes will be developed and taught alongside other health and social care student groups.

For more details see our full glossary of learning and teaching terms.

Study time

Computer skills are vital for your academic studies and future employment. At UWE computing is an integral part of your course - all lecturers involved with this course will be incorporating e-learning and all modules will require you to use Information Technology (IT) to help you undertake and present your work. You will have facilitated session with the tutors to learn how to use our e-learning resources before your first placement. IT facilities are available on all campuses. At the main Frenchay Campus there is a 24 hour access to computing facilities, and the Department offers help and support throughout your course.

Prior to commencing your course, you may find it helpful to familiarise yourself with some core IT skills:

  • Basic word processing
  • Storing and retrieving files
  • Communicating via e-mail
  • Searching the web for information, eg online shopping, booking a holiday, homework
  • Using e-learning resources to support your learning


A variety of methods is used to assess students' academic learning throughout the course. These include essays, care studies, practical assessment, and project work as well as timed, known topic examinations.

For more details see our full glossary of assessment terms.

>> Features

Special Features

Professional accreditation

Successful completion of the course leads to registration as a nurse on the Professional Register held by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).


The practice part of the course is provided by National Health Service (NHS) Trusts, Social Enterprises and the Independent and Voluntary health and social care sector.

What is a placement?

A placement is a period of time within your course that is to be spent in a practice setting. The type of placement you will go on will depend on your personal profile and on which module you are currently studying. The intention of placement practice is to build on the knowledge you gain at the University, to acquire or develop new knowledge and to apply it in the practice environment.

Practical experience accounts for half of the course and a range of settings are used. A full range of shifts will be worked by the student including night and weekend duty. An early shift in some clinical areas may start as early as 07:00 and a late shift may end at 22:00 hours. These times need to be considered when travelling to and from placement and any personal responsibilities you may have.It is a requirement of the course that you work the full range of shifts.

You will have an identified mentor in each placement who will advise, counsel, teach and provide feedback on progress when working with patients/clients and health care professionals. This person will assess your practice.

The practice modules form a compulsory part of your course, and provide you with the unique opportunity to integrate theory and practice. Attendance is strictly monitored to ensure you meet the requirements for registering with the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

Where are the placements?

The placements used for student clinical practice cover a wide area across the South West including Cornwall, Plymouth, Devon, Somerset, North Somerset, Dorset, South Gloucestershire, Gloucestershire, Bath, Bristol, Weston Super Mare and, Swindon and Wiltshire. Throughout the course you can expect to undertake placements within any of these areas, thus providing you with a comprehensive range of practice experience within services for people with learning disabilities and/or head injury. We link students, where possible, to home areas such as Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Dorset or Gloucestershire. If you are a Bristol based student you will have some placements in Bristol but will travel for others. This increases your networks and means we have good employment rates at the end of the course. Due to the pressure on placement capacity the Department reserves the right to place students in any of the areas used for practical placements.

Further placement opportunity

There is also an opportunity to undertake an elective placement outside the geographical areas covered by the University, and to participate in our Croatia project. Students can also apply for an ERASUS placements where you spend 3 months working in Finland or Norway.

Placement Details and times of year:

Year 1 - 19 weeks placement:

  • Mid January mid March (9 weeks)
  • Early May mid July (10 weeks)

Year 2 - 22 weeks placement:

  • Late October mid December (7 weeks)
  • Early March mid April (7 weeks)
  • Early June late July (8 weeks)

Year 3 - 24 weeks placement:

  • Early September mid November (10 weeks)
  • Mid March late June (14 weeks, including 1 week annual leave)

Study facilities

The Department is superbly equipped with an extensive range of teaching and learning resources.

The Library on the Glenside Campus is one of the best health care libraries in England with a huge selection of books, journals, and audio-visual materials including access to specialist health and social case software packages.

The Interprofessional Simulation Suite provides excellent opportunities for the demonstration and practice of professional competencies for all health and social care students.

Information Technology provision is in the form of multimedia laboratories.

High quality student residences are situated on both the Glenside and surrounding campuses. Advice can be obtained from the University's Accommodation Services on +44 (0) 117 3283601 or e-mail

Find out more about the facilities and resources UWE has to offer.

Learning Disability video

Watch this film by the Royal College of Nursing to find out why some nurses choose to specialise in learning disability nursing.

>> Careers

Careers/further study

Once registered, nurses can work within hospitals or the community for either the NHS, armed forces, prison service or a private sector employer. There is work available in all parts of the UK and in a wide range of specialities. Many opportunities exist for Learning Disability nurses to develop their career, through the ethos of life-long learning, at a pace that suits the individual.

Graduate destinations

Find out what our graduates are doing six months after graduating - includes examples of careers, employers and further study. Download a PDF from graduate destinations.

Key employer partnerships

We work closely with the NHS as the main employer for our graduates. See NHS Careers for more information about becoming a learning disabilities nurse in the NHS.

Creating employable students

UWE places strong emphasis on employability and skills development at every level. Through work placements, volunteering, study abroad and UWE initiatives which nurture talent and encourage innovation, students gain valuable real world experience and graduate with diverse career opportunities and a competitive place in the job market.

See great graduate prospects for further information.

Be inspired

Read about Kirstie's experience of studying Learning Disabilities Nursing at UWE.

A day in the life of a Learning Disabilities Nurse

Useful links

Nursing Standard:

NHS Careers - Learning Disabilities

About Learning Disabilities Nursing

NHS jobs

The UWE careers service provides guidance and support throughout your studies in addition to useful resources, CV checks, career coaching and details of current job vacancies.

>> Fees


Fee information

Applicants accepted for an NHS funded place on this course will need to apply for their tuition fees to be paid by the NHS.  If you are a UK student you may be entitled to living cost support. 

For more details please see our guidance on NHS funding for UK students or our guidance on NHS funding for EU students.

We are unable to accept applications from international students (overseas fee status) due to funding arrangements.

>> Entry


Joining instructions

For students starting this course in September 2014, view your joining instructions. For more information about joining the University, please see our New Students pages.

Typical offers

  • Tariff points: 300
  • GCSE: A minimum of 5 subjects at grade C or above, to include English Language and Mathematics
  • A-level subjects: Grade C or above in a Science or Social Science subject.Points from A-Level General Studies and AS-Level subjects (not taken on to full A-Level) can be included towards overall tariff. You must have a minimum of two A-Levels.
  • Specific subjects: Subjects that meet the science/social science requirement for this course: Biology, Applied Biology, Human Biology, Chemistry, Design and Technology: Food Technology, Environmental Science, Geography, Geographical Science, Geology, Health and Social Care, Mathematics, Physical Education, Physics, Psychology, Applied Science, Science (Biology route), Science (Chemistry route), Science (Physics route), Science in Society, Sociology, Sport and Physical Education, Sports Studies.

    For further information and advice on acceptable science/social science subjects please contact

  • EDEXCEL (BTEC) Diploma: A minimum of DDM from the BTEC Diploma, to include 6 units in a Science or Social Science subject
  • Access: Achievement of the Access to HE Diploma; to include 30 level 3 credits at merit, of which 15 credits must be in a Science or Social Science subject; achievement of level 2 credits giving GCSE equivalence (where appropriate) in English Language and Mathematics.
  • Baccalaureate IB: 26 points, to include a minimum grade of 5 in a higher level science or social science subject

Entry requirements

Please note we do not accept deferred entry applications for this course.

All applicants are expected to demonstrate that they have recently undertaken assessed academic study (within the last three years).

Students who do not meet the minimum academic entry requirements but have significant life and/or work experience will be considered on an individual basis. However, you still need to meet the GCSE English and Maths requirements, and should have evidence of recent study in a science/health related subject area recognised as equivalent academic level by the University.

We frequently accept the completion of further or adult education courses as an appropriate entry qualification. Completing an Access or Foundation course (please take a look at the Department's Foundation courses) may be a good move for people who have been away from formal education for a number of years.

Applicants whose first language is not English should have a minimum IELTS score of 7.0 or above with a minimum of 7.0 in all sections of the test. Full details of this language test can be obtained from the British Council. Please note the University's published list of alternative English Language qualifications does not apply to this course.

Additional selection criteria

As well as meeting the academic entry requirements, applicants should meet the following selection criteria:

Health Assessment/Declaration - Applicants must be in good health. Those offered a place are required to complete a questionnaire and be prepared to undergo a medical examination if necessary.

Disclosure of Criminal Background - the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 does not apply and all convictions, including those which are spent, must be disclosed. This is in accordance with the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975.   Applicants who are offered a place must undergo a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check and will be required to complete a Disclosure Application Form. All information will be treated in confidence and only taken into account when absolutely necessary.

Selection Event - shortlisted applicants will be invited to a selection event where they will undertake a literacy and numeracy test; group activity and individual interview.  On successful completion of all of these criteria, applicants will be offered a place.

Completing the application form - we will be looking for applicants committed to Learning Disabilities Nursing. This must be clearly demonstrated in the 'personal statement' section of the application form by; saying why you want to study Learning Disabilities Nursing and any relevant work experience that you have gained to date.

We are unable to accept applications from international students (overseas fee status) due to funding arrangements.

How to apply

Please see the general information about applications.

For further information

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