The role of a development disability (or special needs) nurse

July 1, 2016


Development disability nurses undergo specialised training that qualifies them to provide medical care to individuals who have some form of disability such as blindness, dyslexia, ADHD, autism, Down’s syndrome or cystic fibrosis. Because all of these individuals have special needs, these professionals are also often referred to as special needs nurses.

Development disability nurses form strong bonds with their patients and their families and become a large part of their lives. A career in this field is very rewarding for nurses who thrive on these kinds of close bonds with their patients.

Role of a Development Disability Nurse

As a development disability nurse your main responsibility will be to provide your patients with the medical care and developmental training they need to handle basic daily functions and to lead happy, healthy lives. The role of a nurse in this field is not fixed. Nurses may have to carry out different kinds of responsibilities based on the type and extent of special need.

Some patients may require only occasional help and guidance with certain cognitive functions whereas others may require more extensive assistance or even full-time attention. The seriousness of the disability may also vary. While some patients with more severe disabilities may not show marked or quick progress, those who suffer from minor disabilities may show a huge improvement over a much shorter period of time.

As a special needs nurse, you will often have to interact with the family of the patient as well in order to teach them the skills necessary to take care of and interact with their loved one. You may also have to suggest development schools for children in certain cases.

Excellent communication skills are very important in this specialty. A development disability nurse should be able to communicate with a patient, with the patient’s family, with doctors in different specialisations as well as with other caregivers.

Reasons to go into this field

This is a fast-growing field and development disability nurses are in great demand.

You get the opportunity to work with a few patients for a long duration of time. This allows you to bond with patients and interact with them and their families.

There is a tremendous sense of career satisfaction in this specialty as you help individuals and their families improve their quality of life.

Nurses who learn quickly and manage to perform well in different kinds of situations often have a lot of scope for growth in this industry. There are a number of job opportunities ranging from hospitals and private clinics to schools, homes and even in businesses.

The skills of these nurses are so unique that it would be very difficult for people with special needs as well as their families to live happy and healthy lives without the assistance of a DD nurse. This is a great specialty if you are looking for a challenging career that allows you to work in diverse environments while handling a wide range of emotional and physical disabilities. You will have plenty of opportunities to put all of your nursing skills to use on a regular basis.

Want to learn more? The best way to gain an understanding of what nursing truly entails is to do some nursing work shadowing.



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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives, and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.