Career Spotlight: Developmental Disability Nurse

SpecialNeedsHave you considered changing careers within the field of nursing? If so, consider becoming a developmental disability nurse! Because there is an estimated five million Americans with an intellectual or developmental disability, there is a definite need for developmental disability nurses.1

If you’re looking for a job where you get to work one and one with patients and their families to ensure success in their day-to-day lives, developmental disability nursing might be the career for you.

What is a Developmental Disability Nurse?

These nurses work with patients who have developmental or intellectual disabilities such as Down Syndrome or Autism.

According to Nursing Schools, “the main duties of these developmental disabilities nurses include: assisting patients with feeding and bodily functions, encouraging their independent mobility, educating them on the condition and its medical requirements and assisting the patient with language and communication skills.”2

In addition to helping the patients, developmental disability nurses also work with the families of patients to better understand their disabilities.

How do you become a Developmental Disability Nurse?

A developmental disability nurse is required to have a degree in nursing. This can either be an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).3

Once you have your nursing degree, you must work a minimum of two years in the developmental disabilities setting before you can apply for your developmental disabilities nursing certification. Getting certified as a developmental disabilities nurse requires you to take an exam through the Developmental Disabilities Nurses Association.3

How much do Developmental Disability Nurses make?

The salary range for developmental disability nurses is $50,000 to $60,000.This of course is dependent upon the type of degree you have, where you are working and multiple other factors.

What does a normal day look like for a Developmental Disability Nurse?

While there is no typical day for a developmental disability nurse, there are certain common things these nurses do.

According to Discover Nursing, developmental disability nurses’ tasks include: assisting patients perform basic bodily functions such as eating, teaching patients to move without assistance and helping patients with language and communication skills.4 Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list of all that these nurses do.

Also, while this field of nursing may not be dealing with critically ill patients, it is still requires hard work and dedication.

Marie, a learning disabilities nurse, reminds us “it is hard work. It can be very stressful, but there is a lot of fun as well.”5

Is developmental disability nursing the right choice for me?

If you are looking for a career that is person-centered and focused on improving quality of life, developmental disability nursing might be for you.

According to Pat, a developmental disability nurse, nurses in this field are “going to be treating a whole person. We’re going to be very person centered in everything we do.”6

These nurses work to make sure their patients have the best quality of life that is possible. 

Marie describes the feeling of helping patients improve their quality of life as unexplainable. “They have their problems, but when they’re well they can be funny, we have such a good time with them. It’s just unexplainable really the feeling.”5

Consider a career in developmental disability nursing if you’re looking for a way to connect with patients who need your help to ensure they have a good, quality life.

Are you a development disability nurse? What is your favorite part about the job? Tell us in the comments below!