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:



Thursday, June 10, 2021

The United Nations Volunteers programme is recruiting nurses with disabilities

     "The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme is pleased to announce the recruitment of persons with disabilities for UN Volunteer assignments funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). UNV will be deploying 50 candidates with disabilities as national UN Volunteer specialists in 37 countries across the world."

"As part of UNV’s disability inclusion strategy, this initiative aims to build a talent pipeline of qualified professionals with disabilities who can contribute to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at national and global levels, with a focus on national capacity. The initiative also supports UN partners to expand diversity and inclusion of persons with disabilities in their workforce worldwide."

For more information visit: 

Recruiting persons with disabilities to serve as UN Volunteers | UNV



Sunday, June 6, 2021

D/Deaf healthcare workers in the UK faced discrimination during Covid pandemic


On May 26, 2021, BMJ published the following article, Covid-19: D/Deaf healthcare workers faced  “widespread, systemic discrimination" during pandemic, study finds. (1)

The situation left one GP partner, who is profoundly deaf, “demoralised and depressed” and on the brink of quitting the profession. It was not helped by delays in the UK’s acquisition of clear face masks, which then failed infection control tests.

 The term “D/deaf” includes people who are “Deaf,” which typically refers to those who use British Sign Language as their first language, and people who are “deaf”—those who have hearing impairment but use spoken English and lipreading. People in either group may wear cochlear implants or hearing aids to help them hear environmental sounds and speech.

 A research team from three NHS trusts in England surveyed D/deaf healthcare professionals in the UK to determine their communication challenges during the pandemic and to highlight areas where more support was needed. There are no accurate data on the number of D/deaf healthcare workers, but the researchers estimated this as “potentially several thousand” on the basis of the 2.8 million employed UK adults of working age who have hearing loss, 6% of whom work in healthcare.

The survey was distributed to the 194 members of the UK Deaf Healthcare Professionals group on Facebook and the 145 members of the UK Healthcare Professionals with Hearing Loss email group, and it was promoted on social media. The researchers received 83 responses and reported their findings in Occupational Medicine.(1)

Transparent masks were not prioritised

Most respondents (78%) believed that their communication needs had not been considered during the pandemic, and some reported having been moved away from patient facing clinical roles as a direct result of communication difficulties caused by a lack of reasonable adjustments, such as clear masks.

Nearly three quarters (74%) of respondents worked in the NHS, over two thirds (68%) had severe or profound hearing loss, and 57% wore hearing aids. Most (87%) said that they relied on lipreading, and 21% used sign language and had interpreter support.

Nearly all respondents (77; 93%) had been working in patient facing clinical roles before the pandemic. However, after the pandemic began, 26 (31%) worked at least partly from home, and 14 (18%) were removed from patient facing roles owing to communication difficulties. These included three doctors and five nurses. Some staff were redeployed to administrative duties, but not all were given alternative work.

The researchers said that while efforts were made during the pandemic to produce other required protective gear, the need for healthcare standard transparent masks was not prioritised. This was despite 89% of respondents reporting that opaque masks made it harder or impossible to communicate with patients and colleagues.

Six months after the pandemic began the UK did finally order ClearMask face masks, but they were not deemed suitable by infection control teams for use in clinical areas or where FFP3 masks were required.

The researchers also found that just 19 D/deaf healthcare workers were offered an occupational health assessment to discuss reasonable adjustments during the pandemic. Only 33 (39%) were given the equipment or the reasonable adjustments they needed, and in some cases the recommended adjustments were not implemented because of objections from infection control teams.

Demoralising and depressing

Rosie Knowles, a GP partner in Sheffield who is profoundly deaf and lipreads, told The BMJ, “When all the masking and social distancing and the move to all remote consulting came in with the pandemic, my job became almost impossible.” She said that a lack of support from the clinical commissioning group (CCG) and bodies such as the Royal College of General Practitioners was “extremely demoralising and depressing” and that she had been “close to leaving medical work altogether.”

“I’ve never felt so unheard and so uncared for by the NHS. I was just left to find my own solutions,” she added. Unable to lipread over video calls with poor internet connection and with none of the approved video platforms providing automated captions, she switched to doing most of the practice’s text and email consultations.

After a suggestion from a social media group for deaf healthcare workers, Knowles applied for funding from the employment support programme Access to Work for a live captioner. This took five months to obtain. She also struggled to access the ClearMasks for face-to-face consultations, as the local CCG took months to understand that it was the patients who wore them, not the D/deaf doctor.

“Patients can wear makeshift masks so a ClearMask is no different, but [the CCG] kept insisting that, as personal protective equipment, it had not been clinically cleared,” Knowles explained. Eventually she managed to get the message across, but again it took five months. In the meantime, she had to meet patients outdoors without masks and then bring them inside for examinations.

“My team were always supportive, but the strain on us all was tough: the pandemic plus dealing with the lack of help and support from anyone else,” she told The BMJ. “To be suddenly catapulted from a highly competent and respected healthcare professional into a burden or a nuisance to my colleagues—or to shop staff, to anyone who tried to talk to me—was a major challenge to my mental health.”


The researchers said that any inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic must tackle the discrimination faced by D/deaf healthcare staff.

“Government and NHS policy must be more than platitude; it needs to be translated into action and funding for required reasonable adjustments, together with a culture shift among employers and staff to tackle discrimination, and recognise disabled staff as an asset, and not a burden,” said their paper.

The researchers noted some limitations to their study, including the small number of respondents and the fact that they will have missed staff who do not use social media, which likely attracted a younger demographic.

This article is made freely available for use in accordance with BMJ's website terms and conditions for the duration of the covid-19 pandemic or until otherwise determined by BMJ. You may use, download and print the article for any lawful, non-commercial purpose (including text and data mining) provided that all copyright notices and trade marks are retained.

Mahase E. Covid-19: D/deaf healthcare workers faced “widespread, systemic discrimination” during pandemic, study finds BMJ 2021; 373 :n1365 doi:10.1136/bmj.n1365