Advice and development

Videos celebrate neurodiverse nurses

Nurses and nursing students with dyslexia and dyspraxia make a valuable contribution to care, says Kerry Pace.

Nurses and nursing students with dyslexia and dyspraxia make a valuable contribution to care, says Kerry Pace

Students and practitioners who are ‘neurodiverse’ – which encompasses people who are dyslexic and dyspraxic – make a positive contribution to patient care that should be celebrated.

The term is used in the RCN’s Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and Dyscalculia – a guide for managers and practitioners, which helps to reframe dyslexia and dyspraxia from a deficit model (which perpetuates unfounded fears, such as dyslexic nurses being unsafe with medication) to an inclusive approach.

At least 10% of the population has a neurodiverse profile, and this figure is higher in healthcare. Great nurses that you know are neurodiverse, even if they have not disclosed it to you.

The personal qualities that the RCN’s guide observes as strengths of people who are neurodiverse match those of the 6Cs, including communication, compassion, commitment and competency (NHS 2012).

These qualities are celebrated by the Diverse Nurses project, a collection of short awareness videos by practitioners to promote their positive contributions to practice.





The videos include nursing student Maria, who says: ‘Students with dyslexia can also bring strengths that may include thinking outside the box, being creative, having good perception, good intuition, [and] making connections.’

This belief matches our experience at Diverse Learners and research we have conducted with Jane Wray at the University of Hull. Similar strengths, including being empathetic, are evidenced in work produced by Michelle Cowen for the RCN, such as the dyslexia toolkit.

Booklets by the universities of Surrey and Southampton about supporting dyslexic students on placements, all contain tips for mentors and students.

Difficult transition

Despite evidence that dispels the misconceptions around neurodiversity, negative attitudes persist in the profession, as does the contrast between how practitioners accommodate the diverse needs of patients and those they work alongside.

Nursing students, having been supported at university, often don’t disclose their neurodiversity to their placements fearing it will prejudice their chances of successfully completing practice elements.

Simple accommodations or reasonable adjustments include additional time, a quiet area to write notes, use of software or a smartphone to assist with spelling, reading or memory.

They enable neurodiverse students to be assessed fairly on their abilities, but too often they are denied for reasons such as misplaced fears for patient safety and ignorance. 

These fears are addressed in Dan’s video, where he says: ‘Dyslexia doesn’t mean I read backwards.’ Hannah states: ‘I can spell and I can do handover.’  Nursing student Louise Fisher’s guide expands these points offering suggestions that would benefit any nursing student or mentor. For an in-depth discussion of the topics in this article, view #WeNurses webinars.

Most videos recommend disclosure and asking for help. Hannah says she ‘found out my mentor was dyslexic herself and it was really helpful for me to learn from her’. It is important to raise awareness and acceptance because as Beki highlights: ‘There's loads of dyslexic nurses out there. I’m one of them.’

About the author

Kerry Pace

Kerry Pace (@DiverseLearners) is a specialist tutor and founder of Diverse Learners, a team of health and social care practitioners who provide disability support and training to the healthcare sector.


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