Enhancing Disability Nursing Practice in Australia: Addressing educational preparedness

Natasha Thomas, Rhonda Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


People with intellectual disabilities (IDs) face significant health challenges, including poor outcomes, limited access to health care, and a 26-year life expectancy gap compared with the general population. This highlights the need for improved public health and social policies to enhance the quality of care in hospital and community settings. An integrated literature review was conducted to examine the state of disability nursing practice in Australia following the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Support (NDIS) scheme. The review included English-language studies published from 2010 to 2023. Systematic searches in five databases resulted in a final sample of 28 studies. The data were then thematically analysed, and the following three themes emerged: Workforce development and professional standards, hospital experience and support needs of individuals with IDs, and nursing curriculum and ID. Study findings suggest that nurses lack preparation for effective health communication with individuals with IDs and their families. Evidence is insufficient to guide nursing practice and policies in ID care. Varying understandings of practice standards exist among nurses. Nursing curriculums in Australia fail to adequately prepare students to manage the unique needs of individuals with IDs, perpetuating the high mortality rates in this population. Specialised nursing practice areas are vital for meeting the complex needs of individuals with IDs. Reintroducing a disability nursing specialty and integrating dedicated study units and clinical placements in undergraduate programmes are recommended steps to improve care outcomes and support the overall well-being of this population.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-29
Number of pages29
JournalInternational Journal of Mental Health Nursing
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Jun 2024


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