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‘Advocate for your patients
and do your best’
Being one of only two learning disability consultants in children’s
hospitals in the UK, Joann Kiernan knows the specialty well
Why did you become a nurse?
I am a learning disability nurse who has spent
a large part of my career working with children
who have a learning disability and their families
in the community. My experiences in supporting
children have enabled me to consider their
holistic needs across all areas of service and
community provision.
What might you have done otherwise?
I never saw myself working in the acute sector
and always wanted to work in the community.
Movement away from the medical model of care
has meant that the acute sector is keen to look at
using the skill mix associated working with people
who can struggle to get their health needs met.
Where did you train?
In a secure hospital to a professional standard that
has guided me throughout my career.
What is your current job?
I work as a learning disability consultant nurse
at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, Liverpool.
I am lucky to hold one of only two such positions
in the country. I am also fortunate to be a senior
lecturer of learning disability at Edge Hill
University, Ormskirk.
Where have you worked previously?
I have had an extremely enjoyable and diverse
career with posts in the voluntary sector,
special education, higher education, health
services, community and hospitals.
What do you enjoy most about it?
Both of my roles are challenging,
interesting and continually evolving.
I’d like to think that I enable people
to understand what, why and how
they need to support people with
a learning disability.
What is the greatest challenge?
Making sure that I am listening and
using the information that children
and families feed back. There is
46 / June 2017 / volume 29 number 5
no other group of people who are more able to
articulate and support us in getting things right.
Nursing students can learn from services
and families in lots of different contexts.
Their thoughts and ideas can lead to real service
change when students, our future leaders, are
empowered to do so.
What could you change if you could?
I would change our ability to respond
appropriately. Change in health and education
services is constant, however the needs of the
people we support tend to be less changeable.
Where would you like to be in five
years’ time?
I would like to be producing research with
children, families, peers and students to provide a
high-quality evidence base to support best practice.
What qualities do you think a good
children’s nurse should possess?
A good children’s nurse will work with their
multiprofessional peers to ensure that they can
meet the children and families’ needs.
What inspires you?
I am inspired most days by the willingness of
students and peers to make things better and by
the parents and carers who consistently offer
support. Most of all I am inspired by the children,
who no matter what is going on, will usually tell
us how we are doing.
Outside work what do you enjoy doing?
I have four children and love being around them.
I enjoy going to the gym, walking, running and
occasionally cycling.
What achievements are you proudest of?
I thoroughly enjoyed studying for my PhD.
It was based on the experiences of families and
professionals in supporting the needs of children
with a learning disability and behavioural
needs. The research was challenging and the
process of studying alongside a full-time career
was tough at times.
What advice would give a newly qualified
children’s nurse?
As a newly qualified nurse you can push the
boundaries of your profession. You are in a
privileged position to support patients at what can
be some of the most difficult times in their lives.
Always listen, smile, advocate for your patients
and do your best.
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