Welcome to the Exceptional Nurse Blog! I am Donna Maheady, EdD, ARNP, founder of www.ExceptionalNurse.com, the nonprofit resource committed to inclusion of people with disabilities in nursing. We facilitate inclusion of students with disabilities in nursing education programs and foster resilience and continued practice for nurses who are, or become, disabled. We celebrate abilities, share resources and examples of nurses with disabilities who work with and without accommodations.
"...Immediately after my vision loss, I was distressed and in an overwhelming quandary about what to do. How would I continue working? What questions do I need to ask? On whom do I call to get answers? Will anyone encourage me, believe in me, or support me? Where does one find help in this situation? Is there any such thing as a successfully employed nurse with vision loss??"
"For nurses who have lost sight, first of all, let me encourage you that this is not the end of the world. Give yourself permission to grieve if you have lost a significant amount of vision. I made the mistake of not grieving because I was so occupied with all of the practical aspects of survival such as keeping my job, home, finding transportation, paying bills, etc. Years later, it caught up with me in a big way. Learn from my mistake and don’t indulge in endless grief any more than you would ignore it. Nurse your loss by getting up and getting help. Yes, I know that asking for help is a hard thing for nurses to do because that is what WE do: provide help."
Get Help from Agencies
"The best way to get this help is to get in touch with a state, local, or private rehabilitation agency for the blind or visually impaired. They are equipped to help you in all aspects of putting life back together."
"For the most part, nursing is a very visual profession but it is also very knowledge based. By virtue of this fact, once blindness compensatory skills have been mastered, we can custom design and use systems for storing knowledge, facts, and rules about the work we do. Therefore, we can still represent the world of nursing in a unique and professional manner. Furthermore, we have the added bonus of compassion and deeper insight based on our own struggles with disability."
"When representing yourself to a perspective employer, the best thing you can do is to be at ease and comfortable in your skin as a person with a disability. If you know you have the skills and ability to perform the task of a given job talk about how you would perform those tasks. You might take one or two of your high- or low-tech devices that enable you to do everyday tasks such as a lighted magnifier, braille, or voice note taker or hand-held memo recorder. You could present pictures and information about talking blood pressure machines, scales, thermometers, or computer software to put the employer’s mind at ease, and help them understand how easily and inexpensively accommodations can be made."
"The more comfortable you are with yourself and the more you understand about the accommodations you need to do your job, the better you can make a potential employer comfortable with your disability while, at the same time, helping them understand your many transferable skills, and abilities."
"The career education and exploration program of the American Foundation for the Blind, AFB CareerConnect®, can be a tremendous help to someone looking to go back to work in a specific field after vision loss. This program is free and has specific information for job seekers and employers. Reading the articles in these two sections and using the interactive components of this program will help you understand what employers are thinking, what they need to know, and how best to interact with them. You will also learn ways of finding work, doing successful job interviews, when to disclose your disability, getting hired, keeping your job, climbing the ladder at work, and more."
"Perhaps the most valuable ingredient that AFB CareerConnect adds to the process of re-entering the workforce is the mentoring component. Over 1,000 successfully employed individuals with varying degrees of vision loss that range from considerable useful vision to no useful vision, volunteer to mentor others in their career paths. These people work in more than 300 occupational fields in today’s labor market and, yes, there are nurses, doctors, occupational therapists, medical transcriptionists, pharmacists, and more. To engage a mentor and learn more about this program go to www.afb.org/careerconnect."
Detra Bannister, RN, has worked as a surgical, community, and school health nurse.She works as a CareerConnect Program Specialist for the American Foundation for the Blind. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more of Detra's commentary in the book, "The Exceptional Nurse: Tales from the trenches of truly resilient nurses working with disabilities".http://tinyurl.com/qg9l49y
Please share this post and as always I would love to read your thoughts and comments. With thanks, Donna