Positive Choices, Positive Commitments is a thriving network, information exchange, social forum and support mechanism. Members connect virtually throughout the year in a very active Facebook group and an annual conference bringing together student nurses (from across the five nations; England, Eire, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) academics, movers and shakers in the learning disability world, people who have a learning disability and those who love them.
Last week the #PCPC19 conference came to Birmingham City University with more than 650 delegates coming together to celebrate, share and learn together.
The programme for the two days is an aspiration for the rest of us: people living with learning disabilities and their families are central to the design and delivery. All presentations are focused on the impact for the person at the centre of care and the inclusion of sign language is the norm.
Learning Disability Nursing is at a crossroads in its evolution as it celebrates its 100th Anniversary.
Faced with declining numbers of people applying to train in this specialist branch of nursing, and efforts for more people with learning disabilities to be better supported in their own community starting to have an impact, the profession recognises the need to re-imagine how we view them and the wealth of skills they have to offer.
More than once I have been told about experiences of rejection when applying to acute trusts "we are looking for adult trained registered nurses" or "we have no learning disability nursing posts anymore". Yet learning disability nurses have some of the most creative approaches for encourage people to engage with their care, some of the most imaginative ideas in their toolbox for gaining and giving confidence to the most terrified people and some of the strongest communication skills for helping give individual and collective agency for change.
I can see clearly the strengths they might bring to our increasing number of Dementia Friendly wards, to people with brain injury and to those recovering from a stroke or are elderly and frail. If we dare to think differently and to be brave I think we can find a million ways for these amazing professionals to be a key part of the solution for the future of nursing. We are looking forward to working with learning disability nurses to build on this as it was a clear outcome from the Accelerated Design Event held in January.
About a year ago when completing my mandatory training at Russells Hall Hospital, I hadn't realised how privileged we were to have learning disability and autism training included - it was one of my favourite sessions! It was obvious, to me, that the training applies to us all and that the skills apply to almost every person that we see each and every day.
Making reasonable adjustments should be the norm, not the exception.
Just after I'd completed this session I spotted a tweet by Paula McGowan about her son Oliver. It was only then that it dawned on me that not every one offers this training and it was no surprise that this topic came up during our 30 Day Challenge on unwarranted variation!
Hearing Paula tell Oliver's story at #PCPC19 was the first time I had listened to all of the journey - I would recommend everyone working in the NHS takes the time out to listen to what this tells us about how we really hear what patients and their families are telling us.
Sometimes there are things that are just right to do; helping make the experiences of those in our care be the best that they can be by building nurses knowledge, skills and expertise is essential nursing care.
Run your own session on supporting those with learning disability and autism - just do it I say!
If you would like to develop your skills to use new power to influence change the join our (free to join and virtual) School for Change Agents which starts on the 16th May.
The Positive Choices, Positive Commitments event last week was packed with lots of activities, including a Makaton Choir, a #HelloMyNameIs Guinness World Record attempt and some beautiful disco beads bracelets! These are special beads that shine in certain lights and help us to focus on this being a key moment for learning disability nursing - it is their time to shine! Ted (pictured below) and his sister worked hard to make sure these were ready for the conference - and I am now a very proud owner of one!
"Positive choices is a living testimony to our mantra of 'together we are better' in the last 20 years there has been a quiet revolution of co-production leading to this evolution where people with a learning disability are valued as human beings and we are valued as Registered Nurses. After all as we said in our Guinness World Record attempt 'it's our time to shine'" Helen Laverty MBE Professional Lead for Learning Disability Nursing at the University of Nottingham and facilitator of the Positive Choices Network