Paving The Way For Nursing Students With Disabilities; A Qualitative Case Study
Purpose: This qualitative case study explores barriers to success in nursing education for students with disabilities and provides recommendations for the inclusion of individuals with disabilities into nursing programs. Background: Nurses with disabilities are in an ideal position to support patients with similar experiences. This concordance results in greater patient involvement in care, higher levels of patient satisfaction, higher levels of engagement in preventive care, and better health outcomes. Approximately 56.7 million Americans are living with a disability. Increasing the numbers of nurses with disabilities will directly lead to greater potential for innovative and enhanced healthcare services across the lifespan. Methods: This case study follows a legally blind nursing student for 14 years, from the decision to enroll in a nursing program, through completion of nursing education, and entry into clinical practice. Results: Although she was discouraged from attempting nursing school, the student continued, working with the State Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, and a low vision ophthalmologist, to develop techniques which allowed her to master the skills of nursing. For 9 years she has maintained a clinical practice at a large ophthalmology clinic where she has developed curriculum to assist patients who are struggling with vision loss. Her personal experience with blindness gives her credibility with her patients and fosters hope. She reports that she is now enjoying a rewarding career in nursing, not despite her blindness, but because of it. Implications: Disability does not lie in the person, but in the environment. When adjustments are made to the environment, the disability can be mitigated or removed. While working with disability services and other experts, reasonable accommodations and creative solutions should be explored to allow nursing students with disabilities to complete required tasks. As the nursing pool diversifies and expands to incorporate nurses with disabilities, patients will benefit.