Inclusion is crucial in healthcare, in relation to both patients and nurses. Despite this, nurses with disabilities still face discrimination and barriers in the workplace. In this compassionate article, Amira explains these barriers and what can be done to empower nurses with disabilities.
Nursing is a profession rooted in compassion, expertise, and the relentless pursuit of patient care. Nurses play a pivotal role in healthcare, advocating for their patients and making significant contributions to improving outcomes. However, in the pursuit of diversity and inclusivity within the nursing workforce, one group of professionals often faces unique challenges: nurses with disabilities.
This article aims to shed light on the experiences of nurses with disabilities, highlight the barriers they face, and explore strategies to empower and support these remarkable individuals.
The Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act 2010 protects people from discrimination based on age, gender reassignment, sex, race, religion or belief, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership, sexual orientation and disability. These are called 'protected characteristics'.
The Act states that a person has a disability if they have:
• a physical or mental impairment, and
• this has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
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Types Of Discrimination
The Act identifies four main types of discrimination that are prohibited:
• Direct Discrimination: Treating someone less favourably due to a protected characteristic.
• Indirect Discrimination: Applying a policy or practice that disadvantages individuals with certain protected characteristics, unless it can be objectively justified.
• Harassment: Unwanted behaviour related to a protected characteristic that violates an individual's dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment.
• Victimisation: Treating someone unfavourably because they have taken action or intend to take action under the Equality Act, such as making a complaint or giving evidence.
How Does The Act Protect From Discrimination?
The Act protects you from discrimination in all aspects of employment, including:
• When applying for a job
• In the terms on which employment is offered
• In opportunities for training, promotion or other benefits
• In the way you are treated by your employer and colleagues
• In being selected for redundancy or by being dismissed when you have left your job, but still have a relationship with your previous employer e.g., requiring a reference.
In addition, the Act places a proactive duty on employers to make reasonable adjustments to working arrangements or premises, in order to prevent disabled employees, job applicants or ex-employees from being disadvantaged. This includes making reasonable adjustments to the application and interview process, and careful consideration about providing references.
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Nurses With Disabilities Matter
Nurses with disabilities bring a wealth of knowledge, resilience, and determination to their profession. They challenge societal norms and preconceived notions about what it means to be a nurse, demonstrating that a disability does not define one's abilities or dedication to patient care.
However, they often encounter various barriers that hinder their professional growth and advancement.
Barriers Faced By Nurses With Disabilities
Physical environment is a barrier to many nurses with disabilities. The majority of healthcare facilities are designed with limited accessibility, making it challenging for nurses with mobility impairments to navigate and perform their duties effectively. Inadequate equipment, inaccessible restrooms, and narrow hallways create significant hurdles that need to be addressed to ensure equal opportunities.
There are also deep-rooted biases and stereotypes can create a hostile work environment for nurses with disabilities. Attitudinal barriers, misconceptions about their capabilities, assumptions about accommodation needs, and lack of awareness contribute to negative attitudes that must be challenged and changed.
As well as this, nurses with disabilities often face discrimination and stigmatisation in hiring, promotions, and assignments. The fear of being judged or underestimated can lead to decreased job satisfaction and limited career prospects, despite possessing the necessary skills and qualifications.
Nurses with disabilities often encounter a lack of support and resources. They require appropriate support, accommodations, and resources to thrive in their profession. However, these essentials are not always readily available, leaving them without the tools necessary to overcome challenges and excel in their roles.
Nurses with disabilities bring a wealth of knowledge, resilience, and determination to their profession.
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Empowering Nurses With Disabilities
Inclusive policies and practices are vital. Healthcare organizations should develop and implement inclusive policies that prioritize equal employment opportunities for nurses with disabilities. This includes fostering a culture of acceptance, providing reasonable accommodations, and promoting diversity within the nursing workforce.
In addition, proactive measures must be taken to improve accessibility in healthcare facilities. This involves eliminating physical barriers, ensuring accessible technology and equipment, and training staff members to provide support to nurses with disabilities.
We also need to remember that education plays a crucial role in dispelling misconceptions and raising awareness about the capabilities of nurses with disabilities. Promoting positive portrayals and sharing success stories can challenge biases and inspire future generations of nurses.
Establishing mentorship programs and support networks specifically designed for nurses with disabilities can provide valuable guidance, encouragement, and resources can further empower nurses with disabilities. Connecting nurses with shared experiences can foster a sense of belonging and create opportunities for professional growth.
In conjunction with the above, nurses, healthcare organizations, and professional associations should collaborate and advocate for policy changes that protect the rights and promote the empowerment of nurses with disabilities. By working together, they can break down barriers and create a more inclusive nursing profession.
Nurses with disabilities bring unique perspectives, skills, and experiences to the nursing profession. By recognizing and addressing the barriers they face, we can empower these exceptional individuals to reach their full potential.
Through inclusive policies, improved accessibility, education, and support networks, nurses with disabilities can thrive, contributing to the diversity and excellence of the nursing workforce while delivering exceptional care to their patients.
We must break barriers and champion the empowerment of nurses with disabilities, creating a more inclusive and compassionate healthcare system for all.