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Demand for Nurses
Nurses may be the most in-demand health care position in the country.

Developmental Disabilities Nurse

What Does a Developmental Disabilities Nurse Do?

Developmental disabilities nurses, also known as special needs nurses, provide care for those with mental or developmental disabilities, including mental retardation, Down's syndrome, pervasive developmental disorders, autism, Rett's syndrome, Asperger's syndrome and many more. These disorders are generally chronic, permanent conditions that develop at birth and affect one's ability to learn and perform basic life skills. Aside from working with their patients, these special nurses also provide education and support to the families of their patients. 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. These nurses can work in a variety of setting from hospitals to schools, work places, primary care centers, group homes and private organizations. Nurses that work with the developmentally disabled must possess a great deal of patience and compassion for the people they work with. They should also be able to interpret and anticipate the needs of their patients as many are unable to communicate properly.

How Can I Become a Developmental Disabilities Nurse?

To become a certified developmental disabilities nurse, one must first earn a degree as a registered nurse from an accredited university and complete a minimum of two year of full time employment in a developmental disabilities nursing setting, either as a practicing nurse, a nurse administrator or educator or a nurse consultant. These two prerequisites deem a nurse eligible to sit for the voluntary certification exam which is accredited by the Developmental Disabilities Nurses Association (DDNA). After successfully passing this examination, a nurse earns a Certification in Developmental Disabilities Nursing (CDDN). Certification is not required to work as a developmental disabilities nurse and because of this a student can participate in an LPN training program rather than earning a college degree. While becoming an LPN requires less of a financial and time commitment, the potential employment opportunities and salaries will be markedly more limited.

What Is the Career and Salary Outlook for a Developmental Disabilities Nurse?

The annual salary of a developmental disabilities nurse that has earned an RN degree and certification can earn between $50,000-$60,000 per year, while an LPN can generally earn between $34,000-$44,000. Also, the annual salary depends on the geographic location and facility of employment. Some home health care centers also provide their nurses with mileage reimbursement as an added perk, since they travel to the homes of their patients. One of the greatest benefits of working with patients with developmental disabilities is the chance to forge long relationships with your patients while also helping them to improve the quality of their lives. The field of nursing in general is expected to grown dramatically over the next several years. Because developmental disabilities nurses are specialized, they can expect to also be in high demand in the future. Naturally, the more education and experience one has the more highly they could be recruited.

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