In Kelly’s Words – Working in Healthcare with a Disability
I often say that there are a lot of things I do that I never would have done if not for my injury. Giving Nursing Grand Rounds at Spaulding Rehab Hospital is one of those things.
If you’re not in the healthcare world, “Grand Rounds” are a speaking series that happen at every teaching hospital and are meant to serve as continuing education to the hospital staff and students and address relevant and timely topics. Spaulding is one of the largest rehab hospitals and ranked as the third best rehab hospital in the country. It is also part of the larger Partners HealthCare System in Boston (Mass General, Brigham and Women’s, etc.). So when I was asked this fall to give Grand Rounds at Spaulding I was both honored and intimidated.
Personally and through the KBF I have been involved with Spaulding for almost 10 years. It has an elite spinal cord injury program so when I was in living in Boston during nursing school I was lucky enough to work at Spaulding in a few different capacities. More recently, Spaulding has been a great partner of the Kelly Brush Foundations in helping people with SCI be active and learn about sports. For both of these reasons I was really excited to give this Grand Rounds talk.
Typically, Grand Rounds focus on the latest research and are given by really experienced and esteemed people. This didn’t sound like me! But Spaulding being a rehab hospital, they are making a push to be more inclusive of those with disabilities in the workforce. They asked me to talk about my experience getting into healthcare, going through school, and now working all with a disability. So, while I don’t necessarily consider myself an expert in this field, between my personal experience and all that I have learned through our incredible KBF community, I felt like I had some insight to share.
In preparing for this talk, I had the opportunity to think about what it has really meant to be a practitioner with a disability and how that does affect my colleagues, patients, and peers. So I wanted to use this blog to share my general themes/take a-ways.
- Theme 1: The belief barrier is one of the greatest barriers for people with disabilities entering any professional field. After having an SCI or any kind of disability, it can be hard to believe that you can engage in your life and in society the way you had previously. Setting up systems that can break down that barrier can help more people with disabilities enter the healthcare field, not only benefitting the individual, but also his/her patients and colleagues.
- Theme 2: The healthcare field is better for having more people with disabilities work within it. I truly believe that I’m a better provider because of my disability and the empathy that I bring to my role as a nurse practitioner. People with disabilities often have had a lot of experience as a recipient of the healthcare system, which gives us an acute appreciation for the value of bedside manner and high-quality care.
- Theme 3: Practicing as a nurse practitioner I see 10-20 patients a day, exposing so many people to the possibilities for those with disabilities. So often people attach stigmas to what is possible for someone with a disability and often expect less of them. I get to be in contact with 10-20 kids every day and each one of those kids walks out the door less likely to develop those stigmas for others with disabilities. Showing them that I’m not only just living my life but am also a provider and authority/supportive figure helps to reframe how they see and understand people with disabilities.
If you’d like to watch the entire talk you can here (it’s about 35 minutes of me talking and then an additional 20 minutes or so of questions).
I usually say no when I’m asked to speak to guard my time (full-time job, 2 kids, KBF, etc….). But this topic and this audience gave me a really great opportunity to speak to my experience, support people with disabilities in the workforce, and tie in a lot of the themes that we preach at the Kelly Brush Foundation. This was such a great opportunity for me—and hopefully for the attendees—that I’m so glad I didn’t pass it up!
Dylan and Nell Update:
If you’ve read all the way here—or just skip over my blogs to read these updates ;)—I am going to stop the monthly updates and try to work in a few more long-form blogs about being a mother throughout the year. At this age, we’re definitely falling into a routine and I think I will have a hard time keeping the monthly updates interesting! They are doing great and we’re having all the laughs and tears that come with raising 2 kids under 4 years-old. I’ve included this picture just to hopefully inspire you to read my full kid blogs in the future!