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Give Nurses in Wheelchairs a Chance

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media, December 10, 2013

"I had a special babysitter," Haugh says. "And she never did anything for me." The "babysitter" only lasted for two classes, but "I had to play the game," she says.

Later, despite having good grades and credentials, it took Haugh nine months to land her first job after graduating from nursing school.

"It always seemed I got past the initial HR phone interview, and then I would get stuck at the unit, the nursing interview," Haugh says. There were always different excuses about why she didn't get the job.

"Nursing is so physical; at least that's the perception. And it is physical, but there's so much more to nursing," Haugh says, adding that the only thing she can't do is physically lift patients. "There's lift equipment, there's other things that you can do."

Marianne's experience with discrimination and doubt because of her use of a wheelchair isn't unusual, says Donna C. Maheady, Ed.D., ARNP, Associate Graduate Faculty of the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing at Florida Atlantic University and founder of the nonprofit nursing disability resource exceptionalnurse.com.

Maheady says many nurse leaders "will hide behind" a rigid view of what nurses are supposed to be able to do without even considering whether reasonable accommodations could allow the nurse to work and keep patients safe.

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1 comments on "Give Nurses in Wheelchairs a Chance"


Katherine Washburn (12/13/2013 at 8:20 AM)
I started using a quad cane 14 years ago when I was working on a surgical pedi unit. I had given my manager a heads up that my legs were getting weaker due to spastic paraparesis and that this would be needed. Within a few days, 2 administrators came to me and offered me a position as the MDS Coordinator at the hospital skilled unit. I have progressed from the cane to a rolling walker, wheelchair with back brace prior to back surgery and then a different new rolling walker. I have continued to perform all duties that come with the MDS Coordinator position as well as all the patient interviews. Of course most of the patients think I am with the therapy dept until I introduce myself. I will be taking a permanent disability retirement starting 1/1/14 but truly appreciate the opportunity that was offered to me and giving me a chance to continue being a productive and very important staff member at Houston Methodist San Jacinto Hospital.