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Posted on the 21st August 2020

An award-winning Learning Disability Nurse is offering her own career as an example of how all is not lost when you don’t get the GCSE or A-Level results you might want. Nicola Bruff, who is based in Barrow-in-Furness, didn’t do well in her exams at school or college and went on to fail a Foundation Degree.

But she has since gone on to achieve a 2:1 degree after focusing her career on becoming a Learning Disability Nurse.

She said: “I have had an amazing career since qualifying in 2013 and next year I will continue my learning at the University of Cumbria with a Master’s degree, so I am proof that anything is possible.” Nicola who works for the Children’s Learning Disabilities and Behaviour Support Service, across the whole of South Cumbria for Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust (LSCft), joined the team in 2017. She was part of the team who won the prestigious Learning Disability Nursing award at the 2019 Nursing Times Awards.

She said: “I left school without a C or above in Science and Maths which meant that I had to go on to do resits when I went to college. When I left college I didn’t achieve amazing results, and for a while I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do, although I had done a placement at a special educational needs school when I was in college.

“I then came across the learning disabilities nursing programme at University of Cumbria. The more I read about the course and what a Learning Disability Nurse is, I just knew that it was for me and what I wanted to do. I didn’t get the GCSE results I wanted but found the career I love.” 

Nicola recently applied and was successful for a secondment, provided by LSCft, which will enable her to do the Community Specialist Practitioners course with the University of Cumbria at Master’s level. 

She said: “The best bit of my job is meeting the children, young people and their families and the relationship that I build with them. I really enjoy supporting parents to achieve goals that they set and identify what would be the biggest impact for them, their child and their family.

“I absolutely love to hear about a family’s success and how they value the opportunity to develop relationships with other parents and families with children with additional needs in their local area. It's so person-centred, and more about how you can support the environment around them. It's not necessarily about trying to fix someone.”

Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust currently has vacancies for Learning Disability Nurses in South Cumbria and Lancashire. If you are a registered nurse, a student nurse or a nurse returning to practice and want to join us and work with people like Nicola, visit our recruitment pages at