Awards shortlist for project supporting learning disability nursing students

A social media community project set up to encourage and inspire learning disability nursing students, and help them to maintain their mental wellbeing during the Covid-19 pandemic, has been shortlisted for three prestigious awards.

The #KeephoLDNon campaign began in April 2020 in response to the UK-wide lockdown after senior lecturer of learning disabilities nursing at Kingston University Daniel Marsden joined forces with his counterpart at Teeside University, Chris Dlamini, and leading learning disability nurses Gwen Moulster OBE, Sue Bridges and Heidi McKay, among others.

They created a series of community films featuring actor and learning disability activist Sally Phillips, former MP Norman Lamb and Line of Duty television star Tommy Jessop, who has Downs Syndrome. They also featured contributions from students and members of the learning disability community and have so far received thousands of views combined on YouTube.

Alongside the films and the support provided through social media, the #KeephoLDNon team ran several fun events to bring people together during lockdown, keep spirits high and help the mental health of all involved. These have included a quiz night, tea party and some flashmob events that have been supported by BBC Radio 2 DJ and learning disability champion Jo Whiley.

Together they designed a social media plan which featured the series of heart-warming films, pick-me-up chats, and help and advice – all done virtually with the team yet to meet in person.

This plan came together to help hundreds of student nurses and those working within healthcare on the frontline. The project has now received national recognition with a hat-trick of nominations after being shortlisted for the Learning Disabilities Nursing accolade at the Nursing Times Awards, Team of the Year at the Royal College of Nursing (RCNi) Awards and in the Learning Disability Nursing category at the National Learning Disabilities and Autism Awards.

The group of students, academics and practitioners involved discussed ideas on how learning disability nursing students could be acknowledged and supported through lockdown. They particularly focused on those having to isolate and those on the frontline having to adapt their practise and support people with learning disabilities with changes to their lifestyles, who were finding hard to understand what was going on and why.

Mr Marsden said the key aim was to raise awareness of learning disability nursing and the part students play. “Once the pandemic hit, everyone was talking about the amazing job our NHS nurses were doing but we felt learning disability nurses were getting overlooked. We very quickly came together as a group of individuals from slightly different perspectives, saw a need and identified there was opportunity to bring the community together and resolve that problem,” he said.

Mr Marsden expressed his delight at being shortlisted for the awards but said the biggest satisfaction was the positive impact the project had on all involved. “Everybody came together to contribute in a really creative and collaborative way to show what learning disability nurses do,” he said.

“I’ve had some amazing feedback, from people saying it came at a time when they really needed it, to someone saying it reminded them of why they became a learning disability nurse – it really took everyone’s minds off lockdown,” he said.

All three awards ceremonies take place during October.

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