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Posted: September 14th, 2022

Are Intellectual Disability Nurses Perceived Differently from Other Nurses?

Are Intellectual Disability Nurses Perceived Differently from Other Nurses?

Intellectual disability (ID) is a condition that affects a person’s cognitive, adaptive, and social skills, and limits their ability to function independently in daily life. People with ID may have difficulties with learning, communication, self-care, and decision-making. They may also have additional physical, mental, or behavioral health needs that require specialized care and support.

Intellectual disability nurses (IDNs) are registered nurses who have specialized training and experience in caring for people with ID. They work as part of a multidisciplinary team that includes other health professionals, social workers, educators, and family members. IDNs provide holistic care that addresses the physical, mental, emotional, and social needs of their patients. They also advocate for their rights, dignity, and inclusion in society.

However, despite the important role that IDNs play in improving the health and well-being of people with ID, they may face some challenges and barriers in their profession. Some of these challenges include:

– Lack of education and awareness: Many nursing and medical programs do not include sufficient content on ID and the specific health needs of this population. This may result in a lack of knowledge and skills among general nurses and other health care providers who encounter people with ID in their practice. It may also lead to misconceptions, stereotypes, and stigma about ID and the people who have it.
– Healthcare complexity: People with ID often have multiple and complex health issues that require coordinated and comprehensive care. However, the current health care system may not be well-equipped to meet their needs. For example, there may be limited access to specialized services, inadequate funding and resources, poor communication and collaboration among providers, and lack of evidence-based guidelines and interventions for this population.
– Role ambiguity: The role of IDNs may vary depending on the setting, context, and patient group they work with. For instance, IDNs may work in residential facilities, community services, schools, hospitals, or primary care settings. They may also work with different age groups, from children to older adults. However, there may not be clear definitions or standards for the scope and practice of IDNs across these settings. This may create confusion and inconsistency among IDNs themselves and other health care providers.
– Nursing model of care controversy: There is an ongoing debate about the best nursing model of care for people with ID. Some argue that IDNs should adopt a person-centered approach that focuses on the individual’s preferences, strengths, and goals. Others suggest that IDNs should use a disability-centered approach that emphasizes the person’s impairments, needs, and challenges. Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages, but there is no consensus on which one is more effective or appropriate for this population.
– Caseload distribution and acuity: The demand for IDNs may exceed the supply in some areas or settings. This may result in high caseloads and workload for IDNs who have to care for many patients with diverse and complex needs. It may also affect the quality and safety of care that they provide. Moreover, some patients may have higher acuity or severity of health issues than others. This may require more intensive and specialized care from IDNs who have to balance their time and resources among their patients.

These challenges may affect the perception of IDNs by themselves and others. They may also influence their professional identity, satisfaction, motivation, and retention. Therefore, it is important to address these challenges and support IDNs in their practice.

Some possible ways to do this are:

– Enhancing education and training: Nursing and medical programs should include more content on ID and the specific health needs of this population in their curricula. They should also provide opportunities for students to gain clinical experience in working with people with ID in different settings. Moreover, continuing education and professional development programs should be available for IDNs and other health care providers to update their knowledge and skills in this field.
– Improving health care system: The health care system should be more responsive and accessible to the needs of people with ID. This may involve increasing funding and resources for specialized services, promoting communication and collaboration among providers across settings, developing evidence-based guidelines and interventions for this population, and implementing quality improvement initiatives to monitor and evaluate the outcomes of care.
– Clarifying role definition: The role of IDNs should be clearly defined and standardized across settings. This may involve developing a common framework or model for the scope and practice of IDNs that reflects their core competencies, functions, responsibilities, and accountabilities. It may also involve creating a certification or credentialing system for IDNs that recognizes their expertise and qualifications in this field.
– Resolving nursing model of care debate: The nursing model of care for people with ID should be based on the best available evidence and the individual’s circumstances. Rather than choosing between a person-centered or a disability-centered approach, IDNs should use a flexible and integrated approach that combines the strengths of both. They should also involve the person with ID and their family in the decision-making and care planning process.
– Optimizing caseload management: The caseload and workload of IDNs should be appropriate and manageable. This may involve using a systematic and objective method to assess the acuity and complexity of patients and to allocate resources accordingly. It may also involve providing adequate support and supervision for IDNs who have to deal with challenging or stressful situations.


IDNs are vital members of the health care team who provide holistic and specialized care for people with ID. However, they may face some challenges and barriers in their profession that may affect their perception by themselves and others. These challenges should be addressed and resolved to support IDNs in their practice and to improve the health and well-being of people with ID.

Works Cited

Appelgren, Marie, et al. “Nurses’ Experiences of Caring for Patients with Intellectual Developmental Disorders: A Systematic Review Using a Meta-Ethnographic Approach.” BMC Nursing, vol. 17, no. 51, 2018, https://doi.org/10.1186/s12912-018-0316-9.

Auberry, Kathy. “Intellectual and Developmental Disability Nursing: Current Challenges in the USA.” Nursing: Research and Reviews, vol. 8, 2018, pp. 23-28, https://doi.org/10.2147/NRR.S154511.

“Developmental Disability Nurse Career Overview.” Nurse Journal, 12 Nov. 2021, https://nursejournal.org/careers/developmental-disability-nurse/. Research essay writing service.

“Intellectual Disability Nursing.” South East College, https://www.wit.ie/courses/bsc_hons_in_intellectual_disability_nursing.

“Learning Disability Nurse.” Health Careers, https://www.healthcareers.nhs.uk/explore-roles/nursing/roles-nursing/learning-disability-nurse.

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