In 1978 the Bee-Gees and Abba were in the music charts. Louise Brown, the first 'test tube' baby was born. Anna Ford was the first female newsreader on ITV and I started my training to become a mental subnormality nurse.
Things 34 years ago were very different than they are today. As a nurse I lived and trained in a long stay institution, which was in a small village in Derbyshire. I worked on the wards from 7 am to 8 pm. I had 2 jobs. I worked in a pub at night. In those days many children and adults with learning disabilities lived in hospitals. Families were told that it was the right thing to do. Some people were happy living there but some were sad. People missed their families and friends. Some staff were unkind and people had to do as they were told. As a nurse I was very lucky. I met lots of different people with learning disabilities. In many ways they became like a family to me but they were not allowed to visit me in the pub at night. I got to know some of them well, but we were different. It did not feel fair but they helped me become who I am today.
In 2012 Jessie J and Justin Bieber are in the charts. Over 4 million test tube babies have been born worldwide and newsreaders are male, female, transgendered, disabled, old and young. As a nurse I don't work in a hospital. I don't wear a uniform. I still have 2 jobs. In one I work in Bristol Public Health department where I find out about the needs of people with learning disabilities. My work colleagues include people with learning disabilities, who work with me and others in the same team. One of them is married, one lives with her family, like me, the others have their own flats and live independently. They are employed by the NHS trust, the same as me. My other job is at Norah Fry Research Centre at Bristol University. Norah Fry employ people with learning difficulties as co-researchers. In that job I am working as a nurse on a Confidential Inquiry into deaths in people with Learning Disabilities.
Thirty four years as a learning disability nurse and lots of different changes. In this presentation I will talk about these different changes and compare what happened then as a nurse to what is happening now.
If you woud like to get in touch with the Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) Research Group, please contact:
Chair of the Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) Research Group
School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care
Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies
The Open University
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