Developmental Disabilities Nurse

The role of the developmental disabilities is challenging for any nurse and requires a commitment to excellence in patient care. Individuals with developmental disabilities may have multiple physical issues, behavioural issues and difficulty in communication in some cases. The developmental disabilities nurse serves as a patient advocate as well as a health professional. There is a shortage of qualified nurses in the developmental disabilities field.

Developmental Disabilities Nurse Job Description & Scope of Practice

The developmental disabilities nurse job description is dependent upon the care setting. However, most developmental disabilities nurses will be involved in patient care and medication to help the developmentally delayed individual attain their maximum level of functioning and maintain optimal health. Nurses working in the developmental disabilities field may be in charge of delivering routine medications, supervising daily activities, documenting any increase in symptoms or behavioural changes that might be attributable to medications.

The developmental disabilities nurse may be employed in institutional, hospital or community living settings working with a population of individuals with diverse diagnosis. Some developmental disabilities nurses are employed to make home visits to developmentally delayed individuals who can live independently but require medication supervision.

The developmental disability nurse is a specialty which is badly understaffed and often not as well paid as other nursing opportunities. However the job satisfaction for dedicated nurses in this field is reported to be high.


How to Become a Developmental Disabilities Nurse

Unlike most nursing specialities that require at least a Bachelor degree in nursing or a Master level degree in Nursing; developmental disabilities nurses are often required only to hold a license as an LPN or LVN. 2 and 4 year RNs are usually preferred but the shortage of qualified and caring nurses in this field is reported to be acute and fewer certification requirements are placed upon the developmental disabilities nurse.

Generally state schools for the developmentally disabled as well as community support programs for specific developmental disabilities employ Licensed Nurses including LPNs and LVNs to help assure the health of their target patient population. Starting a career as a developmental disabilities nurse is reported to be easier than in some specialties.


Developmental Disabilities Nurse Education Requirements, Certification, and Schooling Programs

  • Successful completion of a nursing program from an accredited nursing school is required for all Developmental Disabilities Nurses.
  • Passing the state mandated License exam and achieving an LPN, LVN or RN license is a requirement.
  • Nurses are certified as Certified Developmental Disabilities Nurses (CDDN) through the Developmental Disabilities Nurses Association (DDNA). Certification occurs after meeting eligibility requirements and passing an examination. Eligible candidates must have 4,000 hours experience as an active developmental disabilities nurse within the five years immediately prior to the exam. The exam covers all aspects of developmental disabilities nursing for all age groups. The multiple-choice exam is given at the DDNA conference center and also at various local testing centers. Certification is not required, but it is recommended by the DDNA. CDDN certification can lead to better paid administrative and supervisory nursing positions.


Developmental Disabilities Nurse Salary and Career Outlook

RNs are predicted to have a good rate of job growth over the next 8 years. LVNs and LPNs are also in growing demand. The field of developmental disabilities nursing is challenging and predicted to grow at the rate of 21% over the next 8 years.

The salary for a developmental disabilities nurse depends upon the employing agency and their degree. Nurses who specialise in developmental disabilities and have an LPN or LVN diploma earn from $35,000 to $45,000 a year. An RN developmental disabilities nurse salary ranges from $50,000 to $60,000 a year.