Beth Cooper is the Clinical Lead Community Learning Disabilities Nurse for Norfolk Community Health & Care Trust. With the ‘Looking after you locally’ exhibition ongoing at the Forum Norwich, and ahead of the first ever Learning Disabilities Nursing Day, she explains why she is so proud of what the team does.
The ‘Looking after you locally’ exhibition at the Forum Norwich, organised by Norfolk Community Health and Care Trust (NCH&C), celebrates Norfolk’s incredible community healthcare workers, and the vital role they play in our local NHS, keeping people well, healthy, and out of hospital. NCH&C Trust employs 2,500 NHS professionals, who work throughout Norfolk visiting people at home and in community settings.
On November 1, the trust is asking us to say a big thank you for all they do, by joining in with national Community Health and Care Day. A day designed to recognise the dedication shown to their patients and shine a spotlight on this often-overlooked part of our local NHS. Plus, the date also happens to be the first ever Learning Disabilities Nursing Day.
Beth Cooper leads a team of LD nurses, each of them caring for people with learning disabilities throughout South Norfolk. As November 1 approaches, she shares a little bit about her role, and why she’s so immensely proud of what the NCH&C LD Nursing team does, caring for adults with learning disabilities every single day, and supporting people to lead happy, fulfilling, and healthy lives.
What do you do as a Learning Disability Community Nurse in Norfolk?
So, I’m part of a brilliant team of LD nurses, and together, we visit adults with learning disabilities out in the community, whether that’s at home or in care or community settings.
We help our patients to lead healthy and fulfilling lives. And we do that by reducing barriers to mainstream health services so that adults with learning disabilities can access these services in the same way as anyone else.
We work tightly with our fellow healthcare professionals, from social workers, to psychologists, occupational therapists, to dieticians. People who all want the very best for our patients.
No two days are ever the same. When visiting patients, we triage and prioritise cases, which means it can be pressured and fast paced, and we must be dynamic about our thinking. If someone needs additional, urgent support, such as with mental health, we make sure they and their families are well cared for and can access what they need.
Other days, we do take a slower pace and our job allows us to spend meaningful time with people, one on one. It’s a privilege to get to know our patients well, talk about what they want from life and how we can best be there for them, so they can live well, independently and have an improved quality of life.
What’s the best part of your job?
I love what I do, genuinely. It’s incredibly rewarding. And there’s nothing better than seeing one of our adults smiling and thriving. Our work not only makes a difference to our patients but has a ripple effect for carers and families too, and we know we’ve played our part in making someone’s life brighter.
For example, my colleague, Angela Tear, deserves recognition. A trainee nurse associate, she has recently completed an inspiring piece of work with a couple as they navigate a new relationship. Angela has supported them both, talking about sexual health and how they can build a healthy, meaningful relationship and be happy together. The relationship has blossomed, with the guidance of Angela there, someone they can trust to give them all the information they need.
Another member of the team is doing a great piece of work delivering our Healthy Living Clinics in two community hubs in South Norfolk, a great example of NCH&C being out and active in the community. These clinics empower adults with learning disabilities and ensure they can take ownership of their health and wellbeing.
We share information about diet, nutrition, high blood pressure, BMI, how to keep track of this personal health information and make good decisions to keep well and healthy. It’s a lovely chance for our team and patients to meet and have a friendly chat too.
How did you first get interested in community health and care?
I attended a Drama Academy as a young person, which, perhaps surprisingly, led me towards a career in community health and care, rather than stardom!
At drama school, we hosted workshops for the Down Syndrome Society and for people with Autism and learning disabilities, and I witnessed first-hand how drama could unlock their world. I knew then I wanted to work with adults with learning disabilities; it was instantly rewarding.
Why would you encourage others into a role in LD nursing?
It’s unlike any other community nursing work and at NCH&C we are a close-knit team, who support each other. There is a national shortage of LD nurses so we’re really trying hard to get the word out and inspire and encourage others to join us.
If you’ve been thinking about taking up a career in LD community nursing, please, investigate it. There are so many routes in. You can go to university or enrol in an Apprenticeship which means you can earn while you learn, or for those who have been to Uni and want to change career, top-up degrees are an option too.
If you’re a caring, compassionate person who wants to improve the quality of life for adults living with learning disabilities, it’s the most fulfilling career. You will see and feel the difference you are making to people’s lives, every, single, day.
We are having our first ever Learning Disabilities Nursing Day on November 1 to promote LD Nursing and celebrate achievements. NCH&C LD Lead Nursing Team will be at the Norwich Forum promoting this day on November 1. If anyone wants to have a chat, please stop by!
‘Looking after you locally‘ – a celebration of community health & care in Norfolk – runs until November 2 at the Forum in Norwich and is free to attend. Follow #chooseLDnursing on Twitter. To find out more about career and training opportunities, visit Step into the NHS: Learning disability nurse; and Apprenticeships – Norfolk Community Health and Care (wearenchc.nhs.uk). To support Community Health and Care Day and say a heartfelt thank you to community health and care workers, follow #CommunityHealthAndCareDay across social media.