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6 learning disability nurse interview questions – and how to answer them

If you want to do well at interview, you need to prepare. That means reviewing the job description and person specification, researching the local service and preparing answers to the most frequently asked questions. Here are six questions you may be likely to face…

1. Why do you want to work here?

You might have the necessary skills and experience – but will you actually enjoy the job?

‘This is an opportunity to show enthusiasm for the role and demonstrate your passion for learning disability nursing,’ says Heike Guilford, Managing Director of The Coaching Nurse.

‘Describe what opportunities the job will offer you, and why your existing skills, knowledge and experience is relevant.

‘For example, if you have an interest in working with challenging behaviour clients and you have expertise in the field, talk about how excited you are to develop your skill set in this area, and how you feel you can make a positive difference to the service.’

2. Should Barry be made to have a flu jab?

The interviewer says: “You are the primary nurse for Barry and it’s his MDT review. He has said he doesn’t want to have the flu jab. The professionals in the review are in disagreement. How would you advocate for Barry and his wishes?”

‘When answering scenario questions like these, be sure to walk the interviewer through your thought processes,’ advises Heike.

‘Most clients with leaning disability diagnosis are more at risk of catching flu, so in an ideal world, you would be able to persuade Barry to have the jab.

‘That said, your answer should describe carrying out a Mental Capacity Assessment to ensure Barry does have full capacity to understand every action and consequence. If Barry is found to have capacity, there is nothing anyone can do to make him have the flu jab!

‘Don’t forget to involve external Independent Mental Capacity Advocates to support the decision making process.’

According to Jonathan Beebee, a nurse consultant and director of, which supports people with learning disabilities using positive behaviour support, a question on The Mental Capacity Act is very likely to come up.

‘The Mental Capacity Act is probably the act that has had the biggest impact upon learning disability support. So be prepared to discuss consent, deprivation of liberty, and responding to safeguarding concerns.’

3. The CQC has arrived on site. You get a call to say they will be visiting your house in the next hour. What do you do?

According to Heike, a good answer would be:

‘First I would let clients and staff know that they are on their way. Then, I would have a quick walk around the house, checking that everything is in order. I wouldn’t touch any paper work – any CQC inspector would quickly pick up hastily updated care plans, risk assessments, etc.

‘Before they arrive, I would have a meeting with the staff to reassure them that this is nothing to worry about and encourage them to carry out their daily tasks as normal. I would explain that they may be asked a lot of questions by the inspectors and advise them that this is not a job interview, and to answer them as honestly as they can.’

4. How has the Winterbourne scandal affected the profession in your opinion?

The Panorama documentary about Winterbourne View in 2011 led to public outrage at the abuse people experienced there. ‘The scandal has dominated the profession since, and it’s possible that the interviewer will ask a question on the topic,’ says Jonathan.

‘The scandal led to national programmes to ensure people avoid specialist hospital admissions, particularly out of area placements where there are no discharge dates and admissions can be very long. Most admissions of this kind are either as a result of challenging behaviour for people with severe learning disabilities, or for offending behaviour with mild/moderate learning disabilities.’

Jonathan’s advice is to read the national policies: Building the Right Support; Time for Change; and Winterbourne View Transforming Care, a national response, and look on the

NHS England website and find out about your local Transforming Care Delivery Programme. This should have details of which CCGs are involved and should have a link to the local plans.

‘Prepare for how you would answer questions such as “what is your understanding of positive behaviour support”, or your views on restraint and how you could support a restraint reduction plan. You can also demonstrate your understanding by asking the interviewer how the position you are applying for fits with the local plans.’

5. Do you enjoy working within a multidisciplinary team?

The interviewer wants to know that you understand the challenges and can work well as part of a multi-disciplinary team.

‘Most learning disability nurses work within a multi-disciplinary team. During the austerity period many teams have been stretched to cover larger areas or work across multiple bases,’ explains Jonathan.

‘The Care Act has also further strengthened calls for integrated health and social care, and supporting people to have seamless support. This may involve working in partnership with other services, for example diabetes services or social care providers. Working in partnership with families is also essential.

‘Your answer should discuss how you would enable partnership working with all other potential stakeholders.’

6. A client comes to you, saying a member of staff has slapped him. What do you do?

The interviewer wants to feel assured that you would act calmly and know to follow policy.

Heike says: ‘Get another member of staff to take the client to a quiet area for a cup of tea and explain that you need to get support from senior management.

‘Follow the safeguarding policy the organisation has in place, and ask the accused member of staff to come into the office. Explain there is an allegation and ask the member of staff to write out a statement. Meanwhile, contact senior management and ask for further advice and instructions.

‘Do not take it up on yourself to investigate the matter! Most importantly, do not make judgements, investigate or reach any conclusion by yourself. It is vital that all safeguarding allegations are reported and recorded and no one person is left in charge of the investigation process.’

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