Wednesday, December 1, 2021

"See Me!" A watercolor inspired by an artist's love and admiration for her daughter, Ryan Mason, RN

                                                Perri Mason painted this watercolor of her daughter, Ryan Mason, RN

From November 23-January 22, 2022, the Bower Center for the Arts in Bedford, Virginia has an exhibit entitled "See Me!" 

"Everyone wants to be seen, heard, and engaged with as a fully realized human being. Let’s explore the concept that we as people are genetically the same (99.9 percent according to the National Human Genome Research Institute) BUT ... we are different in how the world views and separates us.

What are these differences? Race, sexuality, disability, age, gender, religion, culture? How are we the same? " (Bower

The watercolor was painted by Perri Mason, who is Chronically Ry's (Ryann Mason, BS RN (@chronically_ry) mother. The piece was inspired by Perri Mason's love and admiration for her daughter "Ry" who is diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS). The painting is part of the exhibit at the Bower Center.



Saturday, November 20, 2021

The Exceptional Nurse: An Interview With Dr. Donna Maheady, ARNP

The Exceptional Nurse: An Interview With Dr. Donna Maheady, ARNP

      *This month’s blog has Fatenah chatting with an advanced registered nurse practitioner (ARNP) who  advocates for inclusivity within the nursing profession. Dr. Donna Maheady is a professor with the ABSN program at Utica College, located in Utica, New York. She coined the phrase “exceptional 
   nurse” to reflect those within the nursing profession, students and/or staff, with disabilities.

 Let’s learn more about Dr. Maheady and her inclusion work through Exceptional Nurse, as well as additional resources.

 Who is Donna Maheady?

Big question! I am a nurse, nurse practitioner, and nursing professor (pediatrics is my specialty); mom of a 35-year-old daughter with a genetic defect called HNRNPU, which presents with some symptoms similar to autism; wife; founder of two non-profits: (for nurses and nursing students with disabilities) and (a bell choir for adults with disabilities); author; blogger; dog lover; and volunteer.

 I wrote three books about nurses and nursing students with disabilities and created a coloring book including nurses with disabilities.

 What was the impetus for starting Exceptional Nurse?

Lauren, my daughter, was born in 1986 and was later diagnosed with HNRNPU, OCD, epilepsy, and a host of other autism-related challenges. I quickly became an advocate for her and, over time, expanded my advocacy efforts to include nurses and nursing students with disabilities.

When considering a research topic for my doctoral dissertation, it was just “natural” to study the experiences of nursing students with disabilities. I found that few resources existed for this group, and most students struggled to become nurses and find employment—and nurses who became disabled had virtually no place to turn for support.

 A carpenter was doing some work on our house. He said he created websites “on the side.” Mind you, at that time, I was lucky if I could pick up my email!

Long story short: was born in 2001!

Later, we became a non-profit. And the rest is history as they say. We have grown and grown.

 What do you hope to accomplish through Exceptional Nurse?

Per our mission statement, “We are committed to inclusion of more people with disabilities in the nursing profession. By sharing information and resources, hopes to facilitate inclusion of students with disabilities in nursing education programs and foster resilience and continued practice for nurses who are, or become, disabled.”

 We provide mentorships (linking a nurse or student with another nurse or student with a similar disability) and yearly scholarships. [To create community]…we maintain a blog, Facebook page, and LinkedIn groups.

 How would you address the beliefs by some nurses who feel “such person with such disability can’t be a nurse?”

To my fellow nurses and nursing educators, I would stress the importance of recognizing that disability is part of life…for everyone! Nurses with disabilities have knowledge, experience, and skills to share. They have walked the walk and gained insight into patient care from “both sides of the bed.” Their experiences inform and benefit their nursing practice. Many have a passionate desire to care for others. Nurses with disabilities can be the best role models for patients. Many of our practice settings are some of the most accessible facilities in our society. We need to put these settings to work for nurses as well as patients. Where technology, equipment, and reasonable accommodations are not enough, nurses need to rely on positive attitudes, teamwork, and thinking outside the box. A move toward upholding more of the spirit of the ADA will benefit all of us.

 Some higher education institutions where I’ve worked mention that they look to what the clinical sites will “allow” and use that as the basis for student admissions into their nursing programs. What is your reaction to this?

That may be the reality for some programs, but that does not make it right. If the university or college is receiving federal funds, the ADA applies. Nursing programs often rely on “what a clinical site will allow,” but their larger responsibility is to uphold the law and provide reasonable accommodation.

 What can nursing programs do to support exceptional nurses? What can be done to have a healthier view of seeing differently abled individuals as equals in the nursing field?

Faculty need to ask themselves, how we can meet the curriculum goals and provide the accommodation a student needs? Maybe it is time to look at other more accommodating clinical sites. Or provide an in-service to showcase the accomplishments of nurses with disabilities and what skills they can offer a facility (recognizing Covid limitations).

Another idea might be to invite nurses from facilities to a technology vendor–type show or webinar and have reps demonstrate how equipment/technology can help nurses with and without disabilities (amplified stethoscopes, Safe’N’Clear masks, etc.).

 Build resources (books, videos, etc.) that help faculty understand how students can be accommodated. Some nursing faculty (not all) need to do a better job advocating for all students to be accepted at a facility. Work towards your program being a role model of acceptance for other programs. Research the topic and get papers published.

 This is a great example. Covid actually opened doors for nurses who use wheelchairs:

Disabled Nurses Find Covid-19 Silver Lining; Hope For More Inclusive Future

 Outside of your website, what other resources or support are available for exceptional nurses?




          A Nurse With Albinism and Vision Impairment

         Blind Nurse Colleen Collins, a LightHouse Employment Immersion Client, Lands a Job at       American Care Quest

How would you advise someone considering a nursing career who lives with a disability?

Cast a wide net for career opportunities. There is a place for everyone! If one door closes, move to the next door. The possibilities are endless—from the bedside to case management, telephone triage, legal nurse consulting and writing, teaching online, and becoming an entrepreneur. Consider using your nursing background to start a health-related consulting business, or become a clown or humorist, certified yoga instructor, Reiki master, massage therapist, personal chef, inventor, blogger, fitness coach, holistic nutritionist, cosmetic tattoo artist, tutor for nursing students, host a radio show, or design apparel for people with disabilities.

 Read everything you can get your hands on regarding success stories of other nurses with disabilities and reach out to organizations for support.

Some references to explore:

·         Dupler, A. E., Allen, C., Maheady, D. C., Fleming, S. E., & Allen, M. (2012). Leveling the playing field for nursing students with disabilities: Implications of the amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act. Journal of Nursing Education, 51(3), 140–144.

·         Matt S. B., Fleming S. E., & Maheady, D. C. (2015). Creating disability inclusive work environments for our aging nursing workforce. The Journal of Nursing Administration, 45(6), 325–330.

·         Matt, S. B., Maheady, D., & Fleming, S E. (2015). Educating nursing students with disabilities: Replacing essential functions with technical standards for program entry criteria. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 28(4), 461–468.

Thanks to Dr. Maheady for sharing her expertise with us! If you would like to learn more about the Exceptional Nurse, visit the sites below or contact Dr. Maheady at

          Exceptional Nurse Website

*Fatenah Issa is an Instructional Designer II with Orbis Education. This interview was previously published in the Orbis Education "Hub" blog.




Thursday, September 16, 2021

Putting the spotlight on Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) with disabilities


                                                                                    Carolyn McKinzie, LPN

Carolyn McKinzie returned to work as a nurse following a below the knee amputation. She has held various nursing positions since then. In addition she is an author, blogger and Amputee Nurse consultant.

In an article she wrote for she stated,

"My right below-knee amputation was the result of an auto accident when I was 32. I would undergo several surgeries to try and repair the damage done from the crushing injury to my lower leg. There were infections, hardware exchanges and bone grafts. But despite all of those, I would lose it anyway.

It would end up being the best thing for me, but there are still some down days. Not all the time, but once and awhile. I used to fight those moods and tell myself I needed to stay positive. One day I realized that I had earned the right to have an occasional “poor me” day." 

Read more about Carolyn at Amputee Nurse Consultant/Carolyn McKinzie, LPN, RBKA,  and

                                                                               Britny Bensman, LPN

Britny Bensman is an LPN who is deaf. She studied biology at Gallaudet and while there learned sign language (ASL). She went on to study nursing at Hondros College of Nursing. She practices as a nurse and also teaches sign language (ASL).

A story reported by Chaunie Brusie states,"Bensman also started her own social media account, Deaf Med in 2016. Her Instagram account features stories of other deaf and hard-of-hearing nurses, along with tips, inspiration, and education. The social media trailblazer notes that simply sharing stories from other hard-of-hearing and deaf medical professionals have opened eyes and allowed others to turn negative experiences into positive ones."

Read more about Britny at and

                                                                                     Michelle DiGiacomo, LPN

In a guest blog post, Michelle DiGiacomo wrote about her tracheostomy and becoming an LPN. "I am hardly qualified to dole out words of wisdom as I am still trying to figure it out myself. I can say that taking the power back was key for me.  If I allowed my trach to steal my future, then it truly would be a disabling condition. I had to carry on as I would have without it. I lost a lot of time being angry about what amounts to a botched surgery that I didn't need in the first place. Once I decided that I would pursue my career and socialize again, this issue could no longer hurt me. I am living my life and enjoying the same ups and downs as everyone else. I also learned that before I could put actions behind my decisions I had to accept my difference. Once it was no longer a problem for me, it would no longer be a problem for anyone else."

Read more about Michelle in her own words at



Friday, August 13, 2021

Congratulations to the 2021 Exceptional Nurse Scholarship Winners!


Nursing students with disabilities continue to increase in number. Disabilities may include hearing loss, low vision, learning disabilities, limb differences, paralysis, mental illness, autism, chronic illnesses and conditions such as multiple sclerosis, lupus and movement disorders.

Financing an education can be a challenge for some students with disabilities. In addition to routine expenses (tuition, room and board, books, uniforms, transportation), students may need to purchase an amplified or electronic stethoscope, computer software programs, or audio books—as well as medications, hearing aids, therapies, prostheses, special equipment or custom alterations to uniforms and lab coats. Working a part-time job may not be possible.

Scholarships are available from, a nonprofit resource network for nursing students and nurses with disabilities. The organization provides links to disability-related organizations, technology, equipment, financial aid, employment opportunities, mentors, blogs, continuing education, speakers, legal resources, social media groups, research and related articles.

The organization has been awarding scholarships to nursing students with disabilities since 2003. The awards are based on academic performance, letters of recommendation, financial need and an essay which answers the questions: “How do you plan to contribute to the nursing profession? How will your disability influence your practice as a nurse”? Due to support from many sources, we were able to award two $500.00 scholarships. is honored to announce the winners for 2021!!!
Abigail Buker from Ewing, New Jersey will be attending the College of New Jersey. In her essay she wrote, "Having the same disability as my patients will create a connection further than just the nurse-patient relationship, but to have a nurse that has had and is currently living with the same disease will allow for a closer connection to be built."

Erica Flowers from Andover, Massachusetts will be attending the University of South Carolina. In her essay, she stated, "Long before a disease changed my life, I wanted to work in a hospital setting...In middle school rather than birthday presents I always asked for donations to Boston Children's Hospital. Ironically, in 2018 I landed in that same hospital, this time as a patient....Now I want to take these experiences and give back." 

                       Congratulations and best wishes to all!! 

The scholarship awards are funded through donations, small grants and proceeds from book sales of “The Exceptional Nurse: Tales from the trenches of truly resilient nurses working with disabilities”, “Leave No Nurse Behind: Nurses working with disabilities”, “Nursing students with disabilities change the course” and the coloring book "I am a nurse: Color Me Exceptional! To make a donation or access the application, please visit 

Appreciate your support!

        With thanks, 

Friday, July 16, 2021

Isabella Morrison Fogg, Civil War Nurse, only woman to receive disability pension as a result of war injuries

Isabella Morrison Fogg, Union nurse

According to the website of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, Isabella Fogg was a Union nurse.

Born: December 1823, in New Brunswick, Canada

Served: Maine Camp and Hospital Association, Christian Commission, 1861 to 1865

Died: December 1873, in Washington, DC

"Fogg served with the Maine Camp and Hospital Association and later with the Christian Commission, caring for the wounded on twenty-nine battlefields while being exposed to enemy fire at least eight times.  She also served at various hospitals and on transport ships.  Late in the war she permanently injured her spine after falling through an open hatch of a hospital ship while hurrying to tend to a dying soldier."



Sunday, July 4, 2021

Happy July 4th! An interview with Paul McMillin, RN calls us to action!

                                                              Paul McMillin with Jon Stewart at the Capitol 2021

Paul McMillin, RN, BSN shared this blog post from Nursing One, a registered 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization, dedicated to championing causes that are important to nurses and nursing, written by Judith Kimchi-Wood, PhD, RN, MBA, CPHQ.

"To meaningfully commemorate our 244th Independence Day, I decided to interview Veteran Army Sergeant Paul McMillin. Paul is a 41-year-old married father of three young children who is a RN, BSN Neuro Critical Care nurse at a Columbus Ohio hospital, and whose story of war deployment and consequences may surprise you.

"Paul joined the Army in 2001 with the desire to be in an intelligence unit, but a chance opportunity landed him an infantry combat division that engaged in tactical warfare. In 2004, he was deployed to Mosul, Iraq for one year. During that time, military bases used Burn Pits to dispose of tons of waste. The waste included paper, Styrofoam trays, computer parts, food items, plastic wrap, water bottles, electronics, shipping materials, chemical waste, metal and aluminum products, chemicals, paint, medicate waste, body parts, dead animals, human waste, munitions, wood, rubber, and jet fuel as an accelerant. A Burn Pit is not a hole in a ground, a Burn Pit is a very large open-air burning area that operates 24x7 360 days and creates clouds of black smoke and with it, toxic fumes such as dioxins. Some were the size of a football field. The smoke and smell from the Burn Pits were always swirling in the air accelerated by the Middle Eastern wind and were a part of the daily life on the base.

A year later, Paul finished his service contract and returned to civilian life and service with the National Guard. For the next few years, Paul started experiencing subtle respiratory symptoms upon exertion such as running. In 2015 he was hospitalized in the ICU for three weeks for pneumonia and empyema needing a thoracotomy and chest tubes. The doctors were not sure why such a young healthy guy was getting worse not better. In 2018, Paul started experiencing gasping spells and had visited the ER several times needing help. Questioning why his health was deteriorating, Paul started searching for answers for his shortness of breath. As luck would have it, he was introduced to a specialty physician familiar with effects of exposure to Burn Pits and his etiology was understood. It was not psychogenic symptoms mixed with exercise-induced asthma as he was erroneously diagnosed, but it was respiratory symptoms of shortness of breath and anxiety due to Burn Pits exposure. By now, in 2021 Paul is experiencing shortness of breath with tachycardia and decreased tolerance for activities such as climbing stairs. In the winter he suffers from bronchial irritation, generalized burning in the respiratory tracts, pallor, and constant fatigue necessitating naps. Although he can ventilate, he feels like he can never get a refreshing feeling of a deep breath, which can lead to mood swings on bad days with frustration and anger. Paul sought out other veterans who were experiencing similar symptoms and found out that they all were exposed to the Burn Pit elements. He now interviews them to help share their stories.

It is estimated that 3.5 million veterans have been exposed to Burn Pits toxic fumes and likely carcinogens during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The most important issue is that the hundreds of thousands who already filed requests for help from the Veterans Administration (VA) and 80% of claims have been denied. The reason: The VA states that it needs more time to understand the exact science. Just because one serves in the armed forces does not always mean that one is entitled to medical VA services, especially if the injuries were not actually combat related. This fact is compounded by the lack of information about the issue of Burn Pits exposure in the medical community due to lack of research. In the past few years, veterans like Paul have taken to social media, legislators, and celebrities like Jon Stewart to help them seek assistance from the government. So far there is little interest and little help.

A Senate Bill S.952 titled Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters Exposed to Burn Pits and Other Toxins Act of 2021, was introduced by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York on March 2021. The House companion bill is H. R. 2372, submitted by California Representative and Emergency Room Doctor Raul Ruiz. It was read and passed to the Committees on Veterans Affairs who held hearings. The bill is requesting that veterans of Burn Pits exposure will be given presumptive benefits, which will cover their medical costs and disability when they become sick so that they can continue to support themselves and their families. Right now, many of them are not getting the help they need, and some have already died.

You can support Paul and other suffering veterans by asking your member of congress to support the aforementioned bill by visiting this link and signing a petition to tell congress to stop ignoring veterans who are sick and dying from toxic burn pits Let’s help our veterans so that their story does not resemble the Agent Orange reality of our Vietnam veterans, which took 16 years to pass, way too late for many of them.

If you do only one thing this Independence Day, let it be signing of the petition to help a veteran. After all, we are the land of the free because of the brave. It is now time for us to help them."

To learn more: and the Sick From Serving page on YouTube

Visit Nursing One at

Happy July 4th!


Sunday, June 27, 2021

Nursing student Elizabeth Ovalle survives Covid and graduates!


Calhoun Community College reported the following story.

"Close to the end of March, while most students were on spring break, Ovalle noticed she was having a difficult time breathing. When the symptoms persisted making it even more difficult to take in and release breaths, she went to the Athens-Limestone Hospital where she was immediately admitted. After a few tests were run, Ovalle received the news that she tested positive for COVID-19. Due to her breathing, she was placed on a ventilator." 

"After being on a ventilator for two weeks, she was informed that her breathing had improved enough that she could be taken off and breathe on her own. Once she was stable, she recalls a very sweet patient care aid who came to speak with her. Amid the conversation, the aid uttered words that tore Elizabeth’s heart to pieces, “Your mother has also tested positive for COVID-19, she is extremely sick, a few rooms down from you and is on a ventilator.”

"Struggling to gather her thoughts and emotions, Elizabeth felt helpless as there was nothing she could do for her mother since she too was in the hospital with COVID. She began thinking about nursing school and all of the required clinical hours, exams and coursework that must be completed to graduate successfully from the program and became discouraged." 

“The time I had alone, my mind wandered to the encouraging and motivating words my mom always said to me and that was to never give up, and if I could physically do something, then what was stopping me,” said Ovalle. She recalls that being her strength to fight. She contacted Calhoun’s nursing department to explain what was going on. She was greeted with warm comments, encouragement and messages to focus on getting better and to try again next semester. That is when she informed her instructors that she wasn’t calling to say she was sitting out, she was calling to find out how she could access her courses online and keep going. “When we heard the news about Elizabeth, we were all heartbroken as she is one of those students who is determined and doesn’t let anything get in her way,” commented Dr. Lynn Hogan, Calhoun Nursing Department Chair."

“When she requested her coursework and exams, we were floored as not only did she pass them, but she passed them with high scores despite everything she was going through physically and mentally,” added Hogan. With nothing but time on her hands in the hospital, she used that time to study." 

Read more about this nurse/survivor at: