Advice and development

Placement inspired me to join the equality fight for disabled students

My second placement as a mental health nursing student was on an inpatient unit with acutely unwell patients.

My second placement as a mental health nursing student was on an inpatient unit with acutely unwell patients.

As nursing students, we are taught about the struggles patients have faced and will face in the future, and how we can support them to succeed. I am a mature student with dyslexia and dyspraxia, so have learned first-hand how to overcome adversity to succeed.

Mental health nursing is never easy. It is a balance of empathy, intuition and knowledge to further the care of service users, and to treat each one as an individual so they can be partners in their own recovery.

During this placement, I truly learned how to put into practice the things I had been taught at university. I learned that continuity of care is so much more than just a theory, and that nursing input can mean life or death. I wanted to help the service users as much as possible, and see them get better.

Seeing how well patients were cared for on this placement made me hopeful that nursing students could access the same person-centred support. Five students with disabilities had already had to leave my cohort; I didn’t want to see any more go, so when I returned to university I used what I had learned and began to fight for individualised support for disabled students.

I spoke to the student faculty to request a dedicated member of staff for disability rights, and fought for the university to develop lines of communication between student services and faculties.

One of the first positive things to come out of this was winning the right for students to record lectures. I also helped to secure a dedicated room in the library which was repurposed and developed to support disabled students, and I became the RCN students committee member for the West Midlands.

I am now in my third year and continue to fight for equality for nursing students with disabilities. I have joined the board of the European Nursing Students Association and I am still on the RCN students committee.

This year, I have submitted an agenda item regarding nursing students with disabilities to the RCN’s centenary congress in Glasgow in June. I have asked RCN council to lobby the Nursing and Midwifery Council to bring in universal, reasonable adjustments so that disabled students in the UK are treated equally.

At present, each university can interpret what they deliver to disabled students, as long as they honour the Equality Act. This is grossly unfair, as some universities are less able than others to deliver disability support.

Nursing students can be vulnerable. We get thrown into the fire and instructed to learn and without individualised care we can suffer. My experience of nursing in practice has made me even more aware that I should fight for myself and other disabled nursing students who need support.


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