Why study for a career in additional support needs?

In this blog we interviewed Katie McLellan who is currently studying at Glasgow Caledonian University in her first year of Learning Disability Student Nursing. We wanted to speak to Katie to learn about her pathway in to this career and what it’s like to study for a career in care.katiemclellan

You can watch the video interview of Katie here.

What did you do after leaving school?

When I left school I didn’t really have a clue what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go. I did a last minute application to do primary teaching but I didn’t get in. I decided to go to college and get some qualifications. I applied for a social science course thinking that would get me into primary teaching. However, my plans changed and I decided this wasn’t what I wanted to do. Instead, I enrolled on an additional support needs course at college. I thought this ticked a lot of boxes – it’s working with children but it also specialised in learning disabilities and I thought that would be interesting, and it would open a lot of different doors for me.

Did you enjoy the course?

I loved it! I adored the HNC as I got to go out and work with children in placements in schools for children with support needs. I learned a lot about communication barriers and child protection. It was a really interesting course.

So was it quite a hands on course?

Really hands on which made you enjoy it more. It wasn’t just spending hours in a classroom, you got to go out in placement and you got to put what you’d learned in college into practice.

What did you do after college?

I worked for 2 years with people who had additional support needs, quite complex additional support needs. From here, I decided I could take it one step further and get my nursing qualification. There are community placements and hospital based placements depending on what your choices are. I’ve been out on two community placements so far with the Community Learning Disability teams. I am mentored by a nurse who looks at my caseload, nursing assessments, giving patients medication etc. So it’s quite in depth but I’ve not done a hospital setting yet.

What placements do you do?

Obviously with learning disabilities there isn’t as many ward-based placements as there are community based placements but you do get the opportunity to go into a ward based placement so you have the best of both worlds.

What’s been the best thing about University?

I think it’s having that independence back. Obviously when I was younger I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my education but now that I’m older I’ve discovered what I want to do. I’ve got that drive and passion to go learn and get my qualification which I never thought I’d want to do. So it’s getting that drive back.

What does a typical day look like?

I’m at university just now but with the placement I’m only in one day at university so it’s good. Obviously you’ve got your lectures, a lot of group work and you try to get your essays done. Your days can vary, there’s days when you can be quiet with paper work and other days when you’re going from visit to visit, and you don’t know what’s going to get thrown at you.

Why do you love working with communities?

I picked Learning Disability Nursing because of the one to one experience you get with the patient. It’s a lot more personal as you get to visit the same person and see their journey and help them as much as you can.

What’s been your biggest achievement?

I think it’s being able to stand on my own two feet and get a full time job and show my parents I do know what I want, I do know who I am and I do know where I’m going. It’s getting that confidence from them that they trust me. It’s nice to have that bit of independence, make your own money and show them that I do have a plan.

Have you thought about the future?

Right now because I’ve only done the community based placement that’s in my head. However there is a forensic placement where you get the opportunity to go to prisons into secure wards. I’m still deciding what to do next.

What would you tell potential students who may be interested in studying for the same career as you?

I just think it’s quite rewarding and there are so many different routes to go down you don’t have to do nursing. I know students who have got a lot more information on caring for their family so they can cope at home or students who are full time carers.

It opens a big variety of jobs and experiences, you can take it absolutely anywhere in the world – it’s a good qualification to have.

At Ayrshire College we are launching a new course HNC Additional Support Needs which could lead to a similar pathway to Katie.

Alternatively you could become an additional support needs support worker or assistant within a mainstream school or college, specialised school, within a range of social service care settings or a range of community and/or third sector settings.

Click here to find out more information and to apply for this course.



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