Thursday, May 28, 2020

A case for hiring nurses with disabilities for contact tracing positions

Contact tracing

Reports indicate that the number of contact tracers needed related to Covid-19 range from 100,000-300,000 or more.
Qualifications to work as a contact tracer vary by state. Some local and state health departments only require a high school diploma and other state and local health departments are looking for people with a public health or nursing background. Some contact tracers are paid and some are volunteers.

Contact tracing is an art and a science. Establishing a good rapport with the contact is essential. Contact tracers need to have a good rapport with people in order to encourage a person to provide personal information about their health and contacts. When done well, the work involved in contact tracing can be tedious and demanding. Over time, it can also take an emotional toll on the interviewer. 

Nurses with disabilities (e.g. multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, epilepsy and chronic illnesses) can hit the ground running. Voted the most "trusted profession", nurses understand medical terms, know how to establish relationships with people, maintain privacy and cultural sensitivity, and provide health related teaching. Nurses are resourceful and have experience making referrals to community supports and documenting their assessments and findings. 

Many nurses with disabilities have years of experience and are now unable to work at the bedside. Often, they are eager to return to work. For some, a part-time position would work well. Others are in need of a full-time position with benefits. Virtual positions are ideal for many.

Deaf nurses can work with contacts who are deaf using sign language and lip reading.  Nurses with low vision can use screen readers. Still others speak a language other than English.

The skills and "lived experiences" of nurses with disabilities add to their abilities to connect with people. They have been on both sides of the "bed".

State and local health departments should put nurses with disabilities at the front of the line! 

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