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Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities Nursing

What is IDD Nursing?

Intellectual and developmental disabilities nursing is a nursing specialization focused on caring for those who have intellectual and developmental disabilities such as Down's syndrome and autism. Nurses who specialize in this area are also referred to as special needs nurses. These professionals work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, schools, and in patients' homes. IDD nurses have the opportunity to forge long-term relationships with patients and families, making this a rewarding career.

What are the Duties of an IDD Nurse?

The duties of an IDD nurse depend largely on where he or she works and the patient he or she is caring for at any given time. According to Johnson & Johnson, some typical responsibilities of intellectual and developmental disability nurses include assisting with eating and other day-to-day functions, teaching patients to move on their own, and helping with language and communication skills.

What are the Education and Certification Requirements?

Both LPNs and RNs can become certified in developmental disabilities nursing by the Developmental Disabilities Nursing Association (DDNA), but only registered nurses can earn the title of Certified Developmental Disabilities Nurse (CDDN).

In order to become a CDDN, one must first become a registered nurse. This requires completing an accredited program and earning a diploma, associate's degree, or bachelor's degree in nursing. After this step, one must pass the NCLEX-RN and become licensed as a registered nurse. In order to be eligible, for the DDNA's certification exam, one must have worked at least 4,000 hours in the past 5 years in developmental disabilities nursing. This practice requirement can be met in a variety of other ways specified by the DDNA, including working as a nurse educator or administrator in a developmental disabilities program, but the 4,000 hour requirement is the primary method of qualifying for the certification exam.

LPNs and LVNs can also become certified in this specialty area if they meet the qualifications listed above for registered nurses. These nurses, after passing the exam, earn the credential LVN/LPN - Developmental Disabilities Certified (DDC).

What is the Average Salary?

It is difficult to give an accurate salary estimate for IDD nurses, as salaries are dependent on a variety of factors. Location, employer, and the individual's education and experience level are some of the factors that influence compensation. In a 2010 report by the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics , the median annual salary for registered nurses was estimated at $64,690. The BLS, reported the median salary for LPNs/LVNs in 2010 at $40,380.

What is the Job Outlook?

The outlook for IDD nurses is likely to be positive, as there have been many medical advances in caring for and improving quality of life for patients with developmental disabilities. The BLS predicts 26% job growth for RNs and 22% for LPNs/LVNs.

Additional Resources