As a nursing student, asking for accommodations can help level the playing field by giving you a different environment or approach so you can adapt to any kind of physical or cognitive disability. As mentioned in a previous blog, extra time on tests, a quiet environment , or possibly even a note taker in class are all accommodations that can help nursing students perform their best.

Once you graduate and enter the workforce, how can you make sure you have accommodations you might need?

Many laws in the Americans with Disabilities Act prevent discrimination or retaliation based on accommodations, but the workplace isn’t always as adaptive to requested accommodations. If you know what you need, can request what has worked for you, and the accommodation will fit into the required job description, then your chances of successfully blending the two are much greater.

Keep in mind realistic expectations. If you can’t lift more than 30 pounds due to a previous injury, that will restrict you from doing some specific hands-on roles. But you might be able to with assistive devices. And if you have a hard time writing discharge information or charts in any kind of excessive noise, knowing that will help you prepare for what you need—possibly just a quiet space. If hearing loss makes listening difficult, amplified equipment can help. But not being able to lift heavy things, needing a quiet place to do administrative work, and progressive hearing loss never mean you can’t be an excellent nurse.

In fact, asking for an accommodation when you know it helps you do your job better keeps nursing standards high and ensures patient safety. Asking for an accommodation at work is often done through the human resources department where they can help guide you and determine what will best suit your needs and those of your unit or department. You might be asked to provide medical verification or some kind of official documentation of your disability.

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From that point on, you are not obligated to share the reasons of your accommodation with anyone else at work. Accommodations are often a personal matter and many nurses fear a pushback or a stigma if others realize a change has been made for their benefit.

Is that fear realistic? Possibly. Revealing too much personal information in the workplace always has the potential to return to you in unexpected ways, so it is better if you keep the details to yourself. As long as your workplace helps you and assists you in working out a new approach or by offering different equipment, you can continue to do your job with the exacting precision expected of nurses.

Deciding when and how to talk about accommodations depends on how big of an impact it has on your work and then you should consider the impact it might have on your career. You don’t want to mislead a potential employer and you also don’t want to do substandard work because you are afraid to disclose your need for an accommodation in your current role. For example, if you have progressive hearing loss, but it is not impairing your job now, you might choose to wait a while to disclose. But if you are having trouble haring through a stethoscope, you cannot wait to bring that to the attention of your employer so you can get assistive equipment.

The decision is personal and weighing when and how to tell an employer is crucial to making sure you can do your job while also ensuring you are meeting the high standards expected in the nursing profession.

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Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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