"Think outside the box - don't be limited to what people assume a Learning Disability Nurse should be"

Jo Hunt's career has taken her from care assistant to specialist health visitor via a high-security hospital and two courses at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU).

And the Learning Disability Nursing (LDN) alumna has loved every minute.

Jo Hunt main

Drawn to dynamic work, Jo has just secured funding to attend a trauma course. She will bring back the learning to her team, so they can offer even more support to vulnerable first-time mothers.

She said: "My advice to students is to think outside the box and don't be limited to what people think a LDN should be."

Jo decided to study LDN at the then Charles Frear's campus while working at a sixth form college support centre, having previous experience as a care assistant.

"The role involved working with students with learning disabilities, which made me decide this is my area. It was my eureka moment," she said.

"DMU was a natural choice, as I'm from Leicester."

Jo enjoyed studying from the start.

"My first placement was in a mental health setting and it was amazing. I also loved my learning disability placement, at a community home for people with multiple and profound learning disabilities, and that's where I worked when I qualified in 2002," she said.

Jo moved to Nottingham, spending two years in forensic mental health nursing at the high-security Rampton Hospital.

"I learnt about resilience and professional boundaries along with clinical skills. It was amazing," she said.

Returning home to get married, Jo joined the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) Learning Disability team, while husband Dave - now a senior practitioner - was inspired to leave the motor trade and study Mental Health Nursing at DMU.

"CAMHS was brilliant," said Jo. "We went from an inpatient unit and had to reinvent ourselves as an outreach and outpatient team.

"I became charge nurse communication lead for the service, assessing children and young people with learning disabilities and a range of mental illness. We developed strategies and systems to teach functional communication skills aiming to reduce behaviours.

"I also trained as a Makaton (language programme) tutor, which I continue to do in my free time."

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In addition, Jo started a Speech and Language Therapy degree at another university but left early after adopting a little boy.

Three years later the couple adopted a little girl, which led to another big decision.

"While I was on adoption leave I had a lot to do with the local health visitor. She encouraged me to come to an Open Day at DMU to find out about Specialist Community Public Health Nursing (SCPHN)."

Although it was the hardest course Jo has ever done, she describes it as "amazing".

"I loved coming back to DMU - I liked the study and the environment," she said.

"The course is vocational, so I was working as a health visitor as well and I had an amazing mentor. The lecturers were great and I was well supported."

On completion of the course in 2014, Jo accepted a role as a health visitor. But last year she found her niche with the commissioning of Early Start - an intensive health visiting service for vulnerable first-time mothers.

"We are privileged with the time to see clients more frequently, from early in pregnancy and until the first child's second birthday," said Jo.

"Our aim is to develop a therapeutic relationship with consenting clients, identified as vulnerable due to a range of challenging life events. We aim to support positive parent/infant attachments, family health and life-course development.

"We focus on supporting parents to identify their own health goals and enabling them to become the best parents they can be.

"The team are amazing and my manager is so supportive. There is nothing about it I don't love."

Posted on Wednesday 20th June 2018

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