Introducing NDNursesUK

Wednesday 26th February 2020 by @NDNursesUK

Neurodiversity is an umbrella term which includes people who have dyslexia, dyspraxia (DCD), dyscalculia, Autism and ADHD. As we mark ten years of the Equality Act, these protected characteristics have moved from ‘progressive corporate initiatives’ to business-critical topics. Approximately 15% of the population of the UK are neurodiverse - representing a significant proportion of existing staff, job applicants and customers.

On 31 March 2019, there were  698,237 Nurses on NMC register meaning that there is a large number of Nurses with Autism working at present but so far there is no data about neurodiversity.

How many neurodiverse Nurses are leaving because they don’t feel supported?

Nobody knows…

There are plenty of support groups for patients. Currently NHS have an autism forum but only for patients.

We find quite puzzling that there is nothing for Nurses. In the current climate where we have a massive workforce gap, support for every Nurse is vital.

On a time that NHS are promoting equality and diversity we feel that neurodiverse people are being left behind.

We want to change that.

For that reason a few of us want to create a Network group.


We want to create a health system where neurodiversity is seen positively, focusing on abilities and not disabilities.


1.- Peer Support

2.- To address the recruitment and retention issues for Nursing by enabling Neurodiverse individuals to start, remain and progress in Nursing.

3.- Produce a guide with the RCN Support for managers to help them to get the most of Neurodiverse Nurses and how best support them.


The network supports Nursing Now strategy.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated 2020 as the “Year of the Nurse and Midwife”, in honor of the 200th  birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale and we want Neurodiversity to be included as part of the celebrations.

To do that we will work towards achieving vision through working in partnership with The RCN and NHS Employers in the following themes:

Investing in our staff, Educating for success. Raising standards and Aspirations.

We want the NHS to be an outstanding employer supporting ALL staff to achieve their full potential.

‘Educating for success’

A quarter of all student nurses are dropping out of their degrees before graduation, according to a new investigation, adding to concerns around falling NHS staff numbers.

Lots of neurodiverse nurses struggle to complete the current education.

There is no current data about the percentage of dropping student have a neurodiverse background.

We want to work in partnership with The RCN and Universities to develop neurodiverse students as individuals, enhancing their capabilities as creative, confident and adaptable 21st Century citizens who will make a significant contribution to global society.’

There are a few UK universities who are currently doing an excellent work in supporting Neurodiversity students. We want to expand it to the rest of the UK.

‘Raising standards and aspiration’

We want to work in partnership with NHS Employers and The RCN to help us to enhance our effectiveness and minimise the barriers to achieving our aspirations and full potential’


1.- The network understands societal discrimination impacts on the daily experience of Nurses and students and that increased awareness of this experience is the best way to reduce the impact of it.

2.- The network understands the responsibility for challenging discrimination is the responsibility of every student and every member of NHS.                       

3.- The network understands, although at different stages, all Staff are on an on-going process of learning about how to both recognise and challenge discrimination from an individual to institutional level.


The purpose of the network is to;

1.-Promote NHS wide change by:

     1a.-Work towards issues regarding neurodiversity being an evident part of NHS governance to achieve positive and lasting change.

     1b.-Create and maintain a forum for positively raising the profile of neurodiversity on NHS.

     1c.-Support existing activities and encourage the expansion of initiatives which reduce the incidence and impact of discrimination.

     1d.-Hold the NHS accountable to its stated commitment to challenge discrimination whenever identified.

2.-Support neurodiverse staff by:

     2a.-Create and maintain a safe environment for neurodiverse staff to discuss issues pertaining to discrimination.

     2b.-Accept the validity of the individual accounts from neurodiverse staff and students who choose to disclose their experience of discrmination to network members

     2c.-While respectful of the need to protect members’ anonymity, the group will inform senior management at the NHS of trends, hotspots and incidents of racist behaviour.


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26 February 2020 09:21
Recently the government have stated that every NHS and social care worker in England will have to undergo mandatory training on autism and learning disability following the death of Oliver. That is good news but it could have been avoided if the NHS was more proactive instead of reactive. Autism is close to my heart. I have a son who has recently been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome and a young daughter who have Triple X syndrome. I need to confess that despite being a Nurse my autism knowledge was minimal. Only after I become a parent I have discovered that I am probably autistic. At the moment I am going through the process of having a diagnosis. I always felt different. As I was growing up I got used to be “the odd one”. I am very creative. I always had 100 of ideas, most of them useless but occasionally one of them is brilliant but unfortunately during my nursing career I often felt constricted by the hierarchic system that traditionally has been task orientated and I felt I couldn’t be myself or express my ideas properly. In a few occasions that I tried it did not end well and often managers isolated me and invited me to find another job. In view on keeping my job I learnt to comply and I went back to my safe mode of performing tasks, but I was constantly looking for ways to make a difference and express my creativity but I became frustrated. I went home at the end of every shift demoralised, deflated and sad. My nursing career began to drift and I ended up working on the nurse bank, where I became even more detached and unappreciated. I was feeling undervalued and unable to make the difference. Because of that, I felt emotionally drained and I started to develop negative attitudes and feelings towards patients, and a growing devaluation of my own competence. I could say that my care was compromised. At that point I knew that it was time to move to a new role. There are two core things all staff with autism need: An understanding line manager and the right environment. When I had these I achieved so much more success in my roles. The places where I thrive I had managers that instead embraced my different way of thinking, allowed me to be myself and always asked me how she/he could support me. In the last few years I have achieved success working in roles where my passion was used to drive change. Now that I am a senior nurse I want to help people like me for that reason when Sally approached me to ask for advice regarding her autism I knew that I wanted to help. Sally is a nurse. She is autistic. Stop and think about that for a few moments. Put aside your preconceived ideas that autistics lack empathy, have limited social skills, are emotionally cold, unimaginative, learning disabled. She is an an autistic nurse and have been since 2004. She feels a lost girl, a generation of females who were never identified as being autistic until recently. She always knew that she was different but had no idea why. When she started my nurse training she didn’t know she was autistic. She didn’t identify with any of the documented traits because they are based on male characteristics of autism and not the female autism phenotype. In her final year of training she began to experience difficulties. She had mentors telling her she looked disinterested, that she needed to adjust her attitude. Sally wasn’t disinterested though, she was concentrating on doing her very best for her patients but her face wasn’t expressing this. Her executive functioning skills are lacking, she struggled to manage my time effectively but no one could explain how she could improve this. She remember being in awe of the nurse who managed to make time and task management look so easy. She had to repeat elements of her placements, she spent extra time to pass my management competencies but academically Sally had no problems. But Sally is lucky. She had the right people giving her the right support throughout her last placement and her preceptorship as a newly qualified nurse. Sally, like me, learnt the techniques she needed to become an efficient and competent nurse. There are many who aren’t as lucky. We are losing nurses because the support is not there for them. We are losing nurses because there is a stigma attached to autism and many do not want to disclose their diagnosis. We are losing nurses when we absolutely cannot afford to lose nurses. Being autistic in nursing has its challenges. I have burnt out due to the demands of nursing, the environment, the unrelenting workload. Somehow, I have always managed to bounce back. It is not made easier when your colleagues (across all bands) refuse to believe your diagnosis or make comments such as “you don’t look autistic” or “you must be high functioning”. I want my strengths to be seen and valued. I want to be viewed as an individual who is more than a diagnosis. I admire Sally, she is not hiding and is openly autistic at work in the hope that it will challenge stereotypes and gradually improve the working lives of autistic nurses. I am not as brave as her, so far I kept my autism journey secret until now. I want to make things easy for Autism Nurses. I learnt the hard way. For that reason Sally and I were looking for a support group but to our shock and surprised we did not come across with one. There are plenty of support groups for patients but nothing for Nurses. Currently NHS have an autism forum but only for patients: Autism is much more common than many people think. There are around 700,000 people on the autism spectrum in the UK – that's more than 1 in 100. If you include their families, autism is a part of daily life for 2.8 million people. On 31 March 2019, there were 698,237 Nurses on NMC register meaning that there is a large number of Nurses with Autism working at present. The mandatory training for all staff is essential and in relation to autism it would be extremely useful if nurses who have autism are involved both in the design and delivery of the training. Their living experience and their clinical knowledge would prove highly beneficial in ensuring effective real change can occur and the care evolution that is required is embedded in service structures and cultures. We want to be involved and also create a forum, a safe place where we can talk about our problems and help each other. But also we want, with the help of the RCN to produce a guide for manager and employers on how best to support people like us. Autism is a hidden disability. It is often more challenging to make reasonable adjustments because managers don’t have the information required to make these. We want to change that. Our aim is to break the stigma that you can be a Nurse if you have Autism. Also we want to showcase that with the right support you can progress on your career and become a senior nurse. Let’s talk about it.

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