The Crucial Role of Nurses in Multidisciplinary Support Teams

Support organizations and teams are put in place to ensure that people living with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) can live their life to the fullest of their abilities. A professional support team enables individuals with I/DD to receive life skills training and medical and emotional reinforcement. Many team members include nurses who have dedicated their careers to working with people with I/DD.

Intellectual and Developmental Disability (I/DD) Nursing has become a specialty practice over the past thirty years. Although it is a vital resource within a support team, the role is still difficult to define within the medical field. This is partly due to changing practices in how nursing is delivered, due to state legislative requirements and I/DD care transitioning to community-based service organizations like ILA.

I/DD Nursing Overview

There are two nursing designations, both valued for their specialized expertise in working with I/DD individuals—licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and registered nurses (RNs).

These nurses provide a wide array of services, including hands-on medical assessment to administrative and case support. The complexity and diversity of care will alter depending on the client and the State. Some of these roles include:

  • Consulting with patients, family members, doctors, and service organizations
  • Performing assessments and referrals
  • Promoting health and education
  • Creating and overseeing case management plans and risk plans
  • Administering medication 
  • Providing community advocacy and education
  • Training support staff

Licensed Practical Nurses

LPNs provide a valuable service to individuals with I/DD due to their wide-range of hands-on experience, especially with task-related skills. Practical nurses receive a basic level of education that is geared directly to the comfort of the patient. They assist with medical supplies and administering medicines, and most work under the direct supervision of a registered nurse.

Registered Nurses

RNs bring extensive clinical knowledge and direct care expertise, having completed a course of study that includes social, behavioral, and physical sciences.

RNs with baccalaureate degrees receive training to develop complex care programming, troubleshoot challenges, manage multiple patient caseloads, and provide leadership to a healthcare team. RNs with associate degrees have similar training, but complete less courses pertaining to the administrative aspects of nursing. They are usually required to work under the leadership of an RN with a baccalaureate degree, within a support team.

Nursing Shortages

Countries worldwide face a shortage of health care staff, resulting in some governments ceasing to provide specialty care nursing to individuals with I/DD. Organizations within these countries must seek staff outside their borders, putting an additional strain on countries like the United States, where nurses are also at a premium. This shortage is partially due to the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nurses caring for individuals with I/DD have chosen a specialty area of practice that promotes the emotional and physical wellbeing of their patients. They strive to make a difference through advocacy, inclusion, and the promotion of vital services provided by organizations like ILA, helping individuals reach their full potential in their communities.

Join Our Team

ILA is always on the lookout for skilled, caring, and compassionate nurses to join our excellent multidisciplinary team of human services professionals. Explore a nursing career with ILA today!