A Developmental Disabilities Nurse or DDN is a Registered Nurse specialized in taking care of patients who suffer from developmental disabilities. The DDNs are also often referred to as Special Needs Nurses. These nurses are often found working in special nursing units and nursing homes.
Responsibilities of a DNN
The Developmental Disabilities Nurse has several responsibilities and roles. But, foremost among these roles is the tasks of assisting patients in their ADL. The ADL or Activities of Daily Living are basic activities such as brushing teeth, eating meals, getting in and out of bed, dressing, going to the bathroom, etc. Patients with developmental disabilities find doing these tasks difficult. That is why it is important for the nurse to assist them. However, a certain degree of autonomy and independence must be maintained. Hence, the patient should be allowed to do as much of his/her own ADL as possible.
Rehabilitation is also important in patients with Developmental Disabilities. From time to time therapists come and see patients. It is then the nurseís role to assist the therapist in dealing with the patient. The nurse may also work as Nurse Managers towards fellow DDNs. This role involves the administrative work and delegation of tasks.
The DDN must also be a Nurse Educator towards the patient and the patientís families.
Becoming a Developmental Disabilities Nurse
Different countries have different qualifications required of nurses before they are considered DDNs. Some require nurses to pass a written exam in order to be certified Ė others donít. The Philippines, for example, doesnít require any specific certifications. All a nurse has to do is to work in a developmental disabilities setting and gain expertise in the field.
The United States however, requires nurses to be certified before they are called Developmental Disabilities Nurses.
In order to become a Developmental Disabilities Nurse in the US, the nurse must first gain an RN license. Once the basic license has been obtained, the nurse must then focus on gaining a minimum of 4,000 hours (2 Years full time) experience. The required hours must be obtained working in a developmental disabilities setting. Once the required number of hours has been completed, the nurse is required to take a written exam. Certification is gained as soon as the nurse passes his/her exam.
Continuing and Post Graduate education is required from a nurse in any country. That is why it is important for the nurse to actively attend seminars or workshops that help further their knowledge in their chosen field.
Local Work Opportunities
There are a lot of work opportunities for a DDN here in the Philippines. The nurse can seek employment in pediatric units that specialize in Developmental Disabilities. He/she can also look for positions in rehabilitation centers. The nurse may also work as a Private Duty Nurse for a patient with developmental disabilities.
A Local Developmental Disabilities nurse may also work for government and private psychiatric units. These units not only cater to psychiatric cases but also to Developmental and Intellectual Disability cases.
Local opportunities also include employment in Long Term Care centers and orphanages. Most institutions like those mentioned are NGOs (Non-Profit Organizations). Some of them pay their nurses lower than hospitals and other mainstream organizations.
Work Opportunity Abroad
A Developmental Disabilities Nurse will find that he/she has a lot of work opportunities abroad. Hospitals are always looking for nurses who specialize in Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities. These nurses will be placed in areas where special patients are often admitted for periodic and acute care. They may also work in Emergency rooms, Oncology, Pediatrics, Surgical Wards and Medical Units. While there, their primary objective will be to assist patient with special needs and developmental disabilities.
Rehabilitation Centers and Long Term Care Units also employ nurses who specialize in this area of care. The Nurse may also find employment as a Home Care Nurse or a Private Duty Nurse.
Importance of a Support Group for the Developmental Disabilities Nurse
Nursing can be a very fulfilling and a heartwarming profession. This is most true when the job involves taking care of people who cannot care for themselves. But sometimes it can also be very frustrating. Some nurses who arenít able to handle the pressure well enough tend to quit their jobs or take it out on the patient. In order to avoid such scenarios, nurses must understand the importance of having a support group. They need to talk to people who are going through the same events as they are. This will help them deal with the stress of being a Developmental Disabilities Nurse better.
Support groups can be found locally in the hospital or outside the workplace. Institutions also often offer their nurses and rehabilitation staff debriefing sessions to help relieve the stress of the workplace.
Finding the right support group and going through periodic debriefings is important for the welfare of both the nurse and the patient. If you do not currently have a functioning support group Ė consider forming one. A support group may be established among colleagues. Nurses may also join any Developmental Disabilities or Intellectual Disabilities Nursing organizations in their locale.