A national survey of nurses who care for people with intellectual and developmental disability

Main Article Content

Nathan Wilson
James Collison
Sarah Feighan
Virginia Howie
Lisa Whitehead
Michele Wiese
Kate O'Reilly
Hayden Jaques
Peter Lewis

Keywords

intellectual disability, nursing, nurse, Australia, practice standards, care contexts

Abstract

Objective: To describe the roles that Australian nurses play, the breadth of skills that they deploy, and the range of contexts in which they practice. Study design and methods: This cross-sectional study used a descriptive survey where data were collected online using Qualtrics©. Survey respondents were nurses whose primary role was caring for people with intellectual and developmental disability. In addition to demographic data, the main outcome measures were: nursing roles, practice and context. Results: Complete responses were collected from 101 nurses; 78 females and 22 males completed the survey, the majority of whom (n=70) were from New South Wales. The major focus of care was direct assessment and care, followed by supervision of support workers, education, and advocacy for people with intellectual and developmental disability. Physical healthcare was consistent across body systems, as it was for all adaptive behaviour domains. Support for mental illness was more likely to be for depression and anxiety. Nurses liaise with a multitude of health and social agencies as part of their nursing practice. Discussion: This is the first study to capture the roles, practice and contexts of these Australian nurses. Nurses caring for people with IDD play a variety of roles and engage in a vast array of practice related to the physical and social needs of people with intellectual and developmental disability across the whole of the lifespan and in multiple, disparate contexts. Conclusion: It is important for the ongoing care of people with intellectual and developmental disability that the value added by this nursing workforce not be overlooked as disability and health policies evolve.


Implications for research, policy and practice: This cross sectional study lays the groundwork for further research about these Australian nurses, in particular more focussed research about the economic benefits of disability services employing nurses, description and effect of nursing interventions specific to people with intellectual and developmental disability, as well as theoretical work to conceptualise new, National Disability Insurance Scheme-ready, models of nursing care for people with intellectual and developmental disability.


What is already known about the topic?
• In the Australian context, little is known about the contemporary roles and practice of nurses who care for people with intellectual and developmental disability.
What this paper adds:
• This paper offers a detailed and modern insight into the roles and nursing practice of this marginalised group of nurses. Although all nurses offer physical nursing care, unique to these nurses is the breadth and depth of social, behavioural, emotional and adaptive behaviour support across the lifespan.

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