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Nurses with Disabilities Find On-the-Job Support

Nurses with Disabilities Find On-the-Job Support

Linda Childers / Monster Contributing Writer

A Strong Support System

Cook found support through Exceptional Nurse, a Web site established by Donna Maheady, RN, ARNP, EdD. Maheady, the mother of a daughter with significant disabilities, is the author of Leave No Nurse Behind, a compendium of personal, firsthand accounts of nurses, including Cook, who have triumphed over adversity.

Maheady’s site offers nurses a nonprofit resource network with mentors, disability resources, scholarships and more. Her organization encourages employers to hire nurses with disabilities and argues that these nurses can often provide patients with the best role models.

Cook agrees that being a nurse with a disability has enhanced many of her encounters with patients.

“Sometimes when people are sick, they get distrustful or noncompliant and believe that nurses don’t understand or care about their problem,” she says. “Those of us who have been there, who have experienced how brutal the healthcare system can be firsthand, who have felt that exhaustion or have had side effects from meds just like the patients really have a lot to offer.”

Another organization that supports nurses with disabilities is the National Organization of Nurses with Disabilities (NOND), a nonprofit founded by a group of nurse volunteers in 2003. The organization advocates on behalf of nurses with disabilities and chronic health conditions and offers resources and support for nurses who may be facing obstacles in their jobs.

Beth Marks, RN, PhD, NOND president and assistant director of the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Aging with Developmental Disabilities at the University of Illinois in Chicago, says that many nurses with disabilities still face discrimination and that many are nervous about asking for special accommodations.

“Disclosing disability is a choice and a right that is protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990,” she says. “Through education and advocacy, NOND promotes equity in the workplace. Many of the calls we get are from nurses who have become disabled and aren’t aware of their rights or how to advocate on behalf of themselves.”

While some nurses still face discrimination in the workplace, Marks believes that attitudes are changing and that with the current nursing shortage, nurses with disabilities are being seen as individuals who can work alongside their peers without disabilities to enhance culturally competent nursing care.

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    about 6 years ago


    I am a 36 year old who worked as a CNA and then had a stroke and was given a pacemaker/ difibulator implant now i want to go back to work and no one wants to hire me they arent saying that but i know its that because they think im a liability . I am starting nursing school in January an i hope the school wont have a problem with my disability .

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 6 years ago


    I am a 57 year old nurse who was recently diagnosed with tendonitis of my left wrist. I happen to be left handed so of course writing is the cause of my ailment. I usually work the 7p-7a shift at an inpatient hospice so I don't have to do as much paperwork as say the day shift nurses. But with regs that say the RN must do all admissions and discharges I am left with tons of paperwork. since each admission takes 1-3 hours depending on how fast one can write. At nite I can do the paperwork at my leisure, so I manage.
    In the mid 60's when I was 15 I had a benign brain tumor called an acoustic neuroma. It was so expensive they had to remove part of my cerebellum, the part that controlled my left hand. I literally lost my mind and could not write !. I tried learning to write with my right hand, practicing diligently under the of my mom. but for some reason I found it easier to relearn to write with my left hand. My dabbling into ambidexterity was influenced by the difficulties of living in a right handed world, so when it became painful to write with my left hand I began trying to write with my right hand. It became easier to write with my right hand rather than doing the exercises physical therapy gave me, so I now do my paperwork with my right hand.
    I think I can find another job if my very sloppy handwriting ever became an issue. Meanwhile my fellow nurses help me out. For instance one nurse gives me his notes from report to save me from writing so much. I think there is too much paperwork in hospice anyway, but that they say is another story.

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