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The Caring Support Blog

Why Hiring Healthcare Workers With Disability is a Good Idea

June 16, 2024

Healthcare organizations have the unique opportunity to lead by example and demonstrate the immense value that healthcare professionals with disabilities can contribute to the betterment of health care. In an industry that is often focused on providing care and support to individuals with diverse needs, it only makes sense that healthcare organizations should strive to build a workforce that reflects the very communities they serve.

In this article, we will explore the benefits of making healthcare settings more welcoming to persons with disability. In the process, we’ll also discuss the challenges that medical students and medical professionals face in navigating through health care and the strategies and reasonable accommodations that healthcare organizations can implement to create a more inclusive and supportive work environment for these individuals.

What Does It Mean to Have a Disability?

The Federal Disability Reference Guide by the Government of Canada adapts the World Health Organization (WHO)’s concept of disability and considers it the most widely accepted definition. According to the WHO, disability is a complex interaction between a person’s body and their surrounding society, encompassing impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. It’s caused by various factors and requires an inclusive and accessible environment for full societal participation.

As such, the Canadian government recognizes that disability is a complex phenomenon that isn’t a one-size-fits-all concept. It can happen at any point in a person’s life (i.e., a person can be born with it or develop it later on) and may be exhibited in varying degrees.

Regardless of the contextual differences for disability that also make the services and programs of the Government of Canada that provide for such different from one another, healthcare organizations also have the responsibility to understand the diversity of experiences and needs that healthcare workers with disabilities may have. This is because it will inform their approach to creating an inclusive and supportive work environment.

Why Healthcare Organizations Should Hire More Healthcare Workers With Disability

The negative attitudes to health professionals with disabilities, whether apparent or hidden, are understandable, especially with the traditional notion of healthcare workers being strong, energetic, and healthy. While healthcare workers recognize the needs of patients with disability, the same can’t always be said for colleagues with the same health conditions. Healthcare workers with disabilities are often underrepresented and often hide their disability, as some may fear that their disability status may subject them to discrimination and judgment.

However, healthcare organizations must step up and provide equal opportunities for their colleagues and exert extra efforts for disability inclusion. After all, healthcare workers with disability are assets that contribute a lot to the healthcare system, rather than liabilities, as one may initially perceive them to be.

Here are some reasons why hospital settings and other healthcare facilities must be more welcoming to healthcare workers with disability:

A list summarizing the reasons why healthcare organizations should hire more healthcare workers with disability.

Ethical and Lawful

Hiring healthcare workers with disabilities is not only a right and humane thing to do, but it’s also a legal requirement in many jurisdictions. Canadian legislations such as the Employment Equity Act and the Accessible Canada Act mandate that employers take proactive steps to identify and remove barriers to the employment of individuals with disabilities. By embracing this legal and ethical responsibility, healthcare organizations can demonstrate their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and set an example for others to follow.

Leads to Enhanced Patient Care

Healthcare workers with disabilities often have a unique understanding and empathy for the challenges faced by patients with similar conditions. These healthcare workers are better equipped to anticipate the needs of their patients and provide more personalized and compassionate support. This can lead to enhanced patient care, ultimately helping bridge health disparities and leading to enhanced health outcomes for patients with disability.

The presence of healthcare workers with disabilities can also help normalize the experience of disability for patients and their family members, fostering a more inclusive and welcoming healthcare environment with enhanced cultural competence.

Helps Reduce Stigma Against Persons With Disability

By actively hiring and supporting healthcare workers with disabilities, we can help to challenge the negative stereotypes and misconceptions that often surround disability. When individuals with disabilities are visible and successful in their careers, it can help to dispel the notion that they are incapable or “less than” their able-bodied counterparts. This, in turn, can contribute to a more inclusive and accepting society, where individuals with disabilities are valued for their unique strengths and abilities.

Challenges that Healthcare Workers With Disability Face in Entering and Excelling in Their Careers

While the benefits of hiring healthcare workers with disabilities are clear, it’s important to acknowledge the significant challenges they often face in entering and excelling in their careers. Here are some of the barriers that individuals with disabilities face in navigating through the health system as a student or professional:

Technical Standards Required By the Profession

A good deal of healthcare professions have strict technical standards and physical requirements that can pose barriers for individuals with certain types of disabilities. For example, a healthcare worker with a mobility impairment may struggle to meet the physical demands of a role that requires prolonged standing or frequent lifting of patients. Navigating these technical standards can be a daunting and discouraging process for healthcare workers with disabilities.

Inadequate Accommodations

Even when healthcare workers with disabilities are able to meet the technical standards of their profession, they may still face significant challenges in the workplace due to a lack of adequate accommodations. This can include everything from inaccessible workspaces and equipment to insufficient support for their specific needs. Without the proper accommodations, healthcare workers with disabilities may be unable to perform their job duties effectively, leading to frustration and a sense of exclusion.

Fear of Disclosure

Many healthcare workers with disabilities may be hesitant to disclose their condition to their employer, fearing that it could jeopardize their career prospects or lead to discrimination. This fear of disclosure can prevent them from accessing the accommodations and support they need to thrive in their roles, further compounding the challenges they face.

Strategies to Help Healthcare Workers With Disability Succeed

To address the challenges faced by healthcare workers with disabilities and create a more inclusive and supportive work environment, healthcare organizations must implement a multifaceted approach that encompasses both organizational and individual-level strategies. This can include the following best practices for a more inclusive healthcare workplace for individuals with disability:

A list summarizing some strategies to help healthcare workers with disability succeed.

Implement programs and policies that will make the workplace more inclusive and welcoming

Healthcare organizations can foster inclusivity and create welcoming workplaces by implementing various programs and policies. Here are some strategies that can be adopted:

Foster authentic inclusivity among coworkers

Creating a truly inclusive work environment goes beyond just having the right policies in place. It also requires a concerted effort to foster a culture of acceptance, understanding, and genuine support among all employees. This can be achieved through:

Make equipment and tools more accessible for healthcare workers with disability

Ensuring that the necessary tools and equipment are accessible and adaptable for healthcare workers with disabilities is crucial for their success. This may involve:

Provide opportunities for healthcare workers with disability to progress into leadership roles

One of the key ways to challenge the stigma and biases surrounding healthcare workers with disabilities is to actively support their career advancement and representation in leadership positions. This can include:

Develop inclusive technologies

As healthcare organizations increasingly rely on digital tools and technologies to support patient care and administrative processes, it is crucial that these systems are designed with accessibility in mind. This can involve:

Start hiring talented healthcare workers with disability and create an inclusive workplace environment for them with Caring Support.

Inclusive and Culturally Competent Medical Practice and Work Environment With Caring Support

Hiring healthcare workers with disabilities is not only the right thing to do, but it also contributes to the enhancement of healthcare practices to the greatest extent. By embracing the diversity and unique perspectives that these individuals bring to the table, healthcare organizations can create a healthcare work environment that truly values and supports the unique contributions of healthcare workers with disabilities, ultimately leading to enhanced patient care, increased job satisfaction, and a more inclusive and equitable industry as a whole.

At Caring Support, we support health promotion efforts and the creation of programs that can help healthcare organizations create a more inclusive and supportive work environment for healthcare workers with disabilities. We designed our comprehensive services to effectively contribute to the success of healthcare workers in Canada by helping them in different aspects of their careers, from their healthcare education through our various educational programs, to their job search and their duty essentials. Our healthcare-focused services also help in the effective communication among healthcare professionals and prospective employers.

Reach out to our team today to partner with us and gain helpful guidance on your journey towards an inclusive and positive healthcare workplace.

About The Author
Cam Adajar
Content Writer

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