Nursing Students with Disabilities: “The Real Risk is Doing Nothing”
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Posted 4 months ago
Here is a summary of a brief conversation following the conference.
DM: Was the conference well attended?
SF: Yes! More than 170 people attended from throughout Europe and the U.S. including nurse educators, students, nurses and university disability services staffers.
DM: What was the focus of your keynote address?
SF: I spoke about my journey becoming a nurse as an individual with a disability (born without my left hand). Like many young adults today, I was a young woman with a great desire and yearning to be like my great grandmother who was a frontier midwife. I had an extremely supportive mother and family. At 17, I secured a job in a hospital and the doctors, nurses and patients were supportive. My only obstacle was the educational system. At that time, we did not have the American with Disabilities Act.
I also shared that at Washington State University College of Nursing, where I teach, the underlying message— top down— is “Make it Happen!” Our Deans and faculty are extremely supportive of students with disabilities.
DM: Did you also share your recently produced video “The Disabled Nurse: Focus on Abilities?”
SF: Yes, and it was well received.
DM: The other conference presenters covered a wide range of topics related to inclusion of nursing students with disabilities. Can you share some of the highlights?
SF: Barbara Walters, from the U.K. (former CEO of the organization “Skill”) was insightful and knowledgeable about the medical professions and individuals with disabilities. She shed light on the fact that most errors are made by nurses suffering from stress and sleeplessness—something all nurses are subject too. She also made the point that the power to make decisions regarding students with disabilities lies in the hierarchy of the schools. The support of advocacy organizations is critical to student success.
DM: Do nursing student with disabilities in the UK and Europe face similar challenges to nursing students in the US?
SF: Yes, much more than I expected.
DM: Is it possible to view the conference presentations?
Yes, you can see the full lineup of power points and videos of the presentations.
DM: Who is pictured in the photograph with you?
SF: Dr. Hugh Brady, President of the University College of Dublin, my 18-year-old daughter Monika Fleming and me.
DM: Did you get a chance to meet the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese?
SF: Yes, and what an honor! President McAleese spoke at the conference and shared her personal journey with her brother who is profoundly deaf. In addition, she shared a story about how she counseled a young man (with a disability) who was a top student attending law school but he really desired to be a physician. She carved the way for him and today he is one of the most prominent physicians practicing in Dublin, Ireland.
DM: Overall, what did you learn from this experience?
SF: Laws may be in place, but discrimination has not ended. We need to collaborate more and support nursing students and nurses with disabilities and organizations providing support and advocacy.