What I’ve learned about nurses with disabilities:
- Patients who are facing sickness, disability and adversity identify with disabled nurses, as I learned throughout my clinical experience. Nurses who have been personally influenced by a disability often have a special kind of patient understanding that cannot be taught in a classroom. “In this way, increasing the number of healthcare providers with disabilities can only improve healthcare for people with disabilities” (par. 12).
- Disabled nurses are needed to meet the needs of diverse patients. Patients who must face adversity are often inspired by disabled nurses who have had to overcome adversity themselves. Disabled nurses should not be denied their civil rights to be a nurse, for, “…while nature can impair, only society can disable, and it is society that must be fixed to ameliorate disability” (par. 26).
- My disability is a gift. I didn’t want to just be a nurse, I wanted to be a great nurse. I wanted to be like the nurses who’ve impacted my own life. As I kept working through my clinical rotations, I learned that my personal experiences with osteogenesis imperfecta were actually a gift that I could use to help others. I have empathy for others because I’ve been on “the other side,” meaning being the patient.
- Disabled nurses have a deep understanding of the patient experience. I know what it’s like to be terrified of surgery, in a great amount of pain and feeling like nobody is listening. Many nurses don’t often like to inquire about touchy subjects, and as someone who’s lived with a disability, I understand that it’s hard to be open with nurses about certain concerns even when they do ask. Usually the nurse is hesitant to inquire about feelings and emotions because they don’t know what to say, or they may be uncomfortable or may not care.
However, addressing psychosocial issues contributes greatly to patient outcomes. Disabled nurses have the ability to help people gain perspective about living with a disability, illness or life-altering situation. Helping patients gain a positive attitude contributes to better patient outcomes and assists them in achieving a higher quality of life and happiness.