RN’s website is a fruitful resource for nurses with disabilities

Donna Maheady, EdD, ARNP, wanted to create a virtual space for nurses with disabilities. So, that’s what she did.

Donna Maheady, ARNP

Maheady is the founder of ExceptionalNurse.com a website featuring real-life stories, information and resources for nurses with disabilities, as well as nursing students and those interested in the profession who are affected by disabilities.

“Lauren, my daughter, was born in 1986 and later diagnosed with autism, [obsessive-compulsive disorder], epilepsy and a host of other autism-related challenges,” Maheady said.

“I quickly became an advocate for her, and over time expanded my advocacy efforts to include nurses and nursing students with disabilities,” she said.

Maheady said she learned early in her nursing career, while working on a pediatric unit of a large teaching hospital, that working with children with disabilities was her passion.

She chose to study the experiences of nursing students with disabilities as the research topic for her doctoral dissertation and found few resources existed to help guide nurses.

“Most nursing students with disabilities struggled to become nurses and find employment with or without reasonable accommodation,” Maheady said.

So, Maheady did something about it. She launched ExceptionalNurse.com in 2001.

“The 501(c) 3 nonprofit provides information, support, mentors, employment opportunities, resources related to legal issues, social media groups, links to adaptive equipment and articles and research related to nurses and nursing students with disabilities,” Maheady said. “ExceptionalNurse.com also awards scholarships to nursing students with disabilities every year.”

Advocating for nurses with disabilities

Maheady has written three books — “Nursing Students with Disabilities Change the Course,” “Leave No Nurse Behind: Nurses Working with DisAbilities” and “The Exceptional Nurse: Tales from the Trenches of Truly Resilient Nurses Working with Disabilities,” as well as articles about the experiences of nurses and nursing students with disabilities.

nurses with disabilities - Donna Maheady, "Color Me Exceptional!" coloring book

Donna Maheady’s “I Am a Nurse: Color Me Exceptional!” coloring book

The books offer first-person accounts from nurses and nursing students with disabilities, including those affecting hearing, vision and learning as well as limb loss, spina bifida, lupus and bipolar disorder. Details within the chapters include the journey through nursing school, requesting reasonable accommodation, equipment and support and finding employment. Each chapter includes resources and contact information, said Maheady.

Maheady also created the coloring book, “I Am a Nurse: Color me Exceptional!”

The illustrations are inspired by real-life nurses with hearing or vision loss, spina bifida, dyslexia, sickle cell anemia, asthma, osteogenesis imperfecta, cerebral palsy or epilepsy, as well as nurses who amputees, use wheelchairs, service dogs or sign language, according to Maheady.

These nurses work in hospitals, clinics and camps, as well as for organ transplant registries, NASA, cruise ships and amusement parks.

“I want children and adults with and without disabilities to know a nursing career is possible for everyone,” she said. “We often hear comments such as ‘we need to change the conversation or narrative,’ but we also need to see more visual representations of people with disabilities in healthcare settings.”

Maheady plans to continue …read more

Read full article here: nurse.com