Common Challenges for Nursing Students with Disabilities: Where to Start? Common Challenges for Nursing Students with Disabilities: Where to Start?

  • Common Challenges for Nursing Students with Disabilities: Where to Start?
  • by Beth Marks

Some common challenges for student nurses that we have seen relate to the following:
  1. limited information about accommodations;
  2. uncomfortable asking for accommodations;
  3. not aware of disability student (DS) services or the school has no DS Office;
  4. lack of role models;
  5. no mentors who share his or her disability status to be a resource;
  6. lack of faculty advocates;
  7. not knowing how to or if it is necessary to disclose a disability; and,
  8. not knowing civil rights and rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (e.g., lack of knowledge as to when and how rights are being violated).


For nurses who acquire a disability in practice, challenges often relate to lack of peer support, unfamiliarity with assistive devices, limited advocacy skills related to requesting accommodations and knowledge of the rights and responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Attitudinal barriers remain the most significant barrier for students and nurses with disabilities. We are still rooted in a medical model of disabilities and have not embraced a socio-political lens for understanding disability, which would allow us to more readily see nurses with disabilities as valued health professionals.
The first step is gaining knowledge and skills related to advocacy and making decisions regarding disclosure if he or she has a need for an accommodation. If accommodations are needed people need to contact the appropriate office (e.g., your school's disability services) to request an accommodation? The document entitled “To Disclose or Not to Disclose?” located on this website is a good primer on making this decision: http://nond.org/Trending/Trending.php?id=7602261766140196312 (To Disclose or Not to Disclose?)

Also, depending on the response you get from disability services, it might be good to connect with your state protection and advocacy program (
http://www.napas.org/) and your regional ADA Center (http://adata.org/Static/Home.html).  The National Organization of Nurses with Disabilities (NOND) does offer resources to help you understand your rights, protections, and responsibilities in regards to various Disability Rights Laws (http://www.ada.gov/cguide.htm). This website may provide additional resources http://nond.org/Self_Advocacy/Work.html. The Job Accommodation Network provided by the US Dept. of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy is an excellent resource.

Lastly, this site has two good films that might be useful: 
http://nond.org/Trending/Trending.php?categories=Films



Disclaimer: The National Organization of Nurses with Disabilities (NOND) does not offer legal advice but NOND does offer resources to help you understand your rights, protections, and responsibilities within various Disability Rights Laws.