Developmental Disability Nurse: Salary & Job Description

Developmental disability nurses are trained to work with individuals who have disabilities and conditions that affect their development and mental and physical abilities. Read on to learn more about what these specialized nurses do.

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Career Definition of a Developmental Disability Nurse

Developmental disabilities nurses specialize in providing nursing care to people who have developmental and mental disabilities. They work with children and adults who suffer from different types of disabilities, such as autism, Down Syndrome, and cerebral palsy. Tasks include helping patients eat and teaching movement and language skills. Development disability nurses are one of a number of professionals who are involved with providing services to their clients, and they must coordinate with other professionals to ensure patients are receiving appropriate care.

In their role as a developmental disability nurse, they can be responsible for evaluating patients and monitoring their health. They may give advice about managing a patient's weight by monitoring their diet or their exercise routine. Developmental disability nurses may help their clients find other types of services that they need or teach the families of their clients about their health and how to manage specific medical issues.

Educational Requirements Certificate, diploma, associate's degree or bachelor's degree; license, practical experience, and certification
Job Skills Strong communication skills, interpersonal skills, patience, compassion, attention to detail, teamwork skills, organizational skills
Median Salary (2016)* $44,090 (licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses)
$68,450 (registered nurses)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 12% (licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses)
15% (registered nurses)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Developmental disability nurses first become registered nurses by graduating from an accredited nursing program and earning an associate's degree in nursing, a bachelor of science degree in nursing, or a diploma in nursing. They must then fulfill the licensing requirements to become licensed in the state where they work. After they enter the workforce, they must spend two years working with patients with disabilities. Once they have at least two years of relevant work experience, they can take an exam to earn specialty certification from the Developmental Disabilities Nurse Association.

Licensed practical or vocational nurses with the appropriate experience and a nursing certificate or diploma can also pursue certification to become a developmental disability nurse. Registered nurses may have a larger scope of responsibilities and better opportunities, however, due to their additional qualification.

Required Skills

Developmental disabilities nurses need to have excellent communication skills and strong interpersonal skills because they need to be able to interact with clients who may need to communicate non-verbally or have limited verbal communication skills. They also benefit from teamwork skills because in their role they may regularly interact with a lot of other people who are involved in providing different services to their clients. Organizational skills are important since they need to interact with a number of different professionals and need to ensure all relevant parties are informed of changes in a client's care or concerns about their health. Patience is important since some of the individuals they work with may have fears about receiving medical treatments.

Career Outlook and Salary

The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not include data specifically for developmental disability nurses, though they do include data for the two applicable non-specialized nursing paths, namely licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses and registered nurses. Over the ten-year period from 2016 to 2026, the BLS expects the average job growth rate for all occupations to be 7% but projects stronger job growth rates of 12% and 15% for licensed practical/vocational nurses and registered nurses, respectively. As of 2016, the BLS reported that licensed practical/vocational nurses earned a median salary of $44,090, while registered nurses took home an annual median income of $68,450.

Related Careers

If a career as a developmental disability nurse sounds appealing, then you may also be interested in other nursing specialties, careers that involve working with disabled persons, and careers related to disabilities. Use the links here to learn more about some other careers with duties that are related to the role of a developmental disability nurse.

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