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100 Years of Learning Disability Nursing – Meet the Team

Posted: 11/12/19

This year marks the 100th anniversary of learning disability nursing. To mark the centenary, we have written a series of case studies celebrating the work of those in learning disability nursing.

Karen Bell is the clinical lead for the PBS Pathway at Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW), a provider of mental health and disability services.

Karen has had a long and varied career, having been in her current role for 13 years and in the Trust for 38 years. She began as an enrolled nurse, qualifying in 1983.

In 1996, Karen did a conversion course to become a registered nurse and has gained a number of management and leadership qualifications since then, including a Masters degree in Applied Behaviour Analysis, specialising in behavioural therapy. More recently, she has completed a Health Education Academy (HEA) award for teaching and has become a registered teacher with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

As well as achieving many qualifications during her time at CNTW, Karen has also turned her hand to a number of roles within the Trust.

After managing the day services in Prudhoe she went into project management, working on the reconfiguration of day services across the Northgate and Prudhoe sites. This was no mean feat, working with multiple disciplines to make these services more efficient and fit for purpose.

While she found her time in project management worthwhile, Karen knew she wanted to return to clinical work, moving to what was then known as the Behavioural Analysis Intervention Team (BAIT).

On her move back to clinical work, Karen said: “I always strive to work somewhere that makes the most difference to the people we work with. I’ve found PBS to makes such a big difference to people’s quality of life, ensuring clients live successfully in a community setting.”

Since the start of her career at Prudhoe Hospital nearly four decades ago, Karen has seen a lot of changes, particularly in the way people are able to live in the community.

She describes her job in the PBS Pathway as the “most rewarding” role she has done. PBS (Positive Behaviour Support) provides support for individuals with a learning disability and their families to help people lead a meaningful life and learn new skills without unnecessary restrictions.

As a clinical lead, Karen is responsible for managing a case load of patients. She is responsible for the clinical flow through the pathway and clinically managing the nursing team.
“Our main aim is put the clients first. We are a small team and the work isn’t without its challenges but we’re all very supportive of each other,” Karen said.

The PBS Pathway is part of the Community Team Learning Disabilities (CTLD) based at Benton House in Newcastle. It provides services to adults with a learning disability who have complex physical needs, behaviours that challenge, or mental health needs.

Often their needs are complex and require a specialist or integrated approach to care and treatment which cannot always be met through mainstream services.