A White Paper on Inclusion of Students with Disabilities in Nursing Educational Programs is available on the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) website. This paper also presents a new model of technical standards inclusive of all students with and without disabilities
White Paper on Inclusion of Students with Disabilities in Nursing Educational Programs
for the California Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities (CCEPD)
Nurses are challenged to fill the new and expanded roles for a health care system designed to improve the quality of health care. Despite the unique perspective and set of skills that students and health professionals with disabilities have to address many of these challenges, people with disabilities are often effectively excluded from the nursing profession. The purposes of this white paper are to 1) frame the issues that prevent applicants with disabilities from entering nursing education and the nursing profession and 2) propose the changes necessary to engage the potential of people with disabilities to enhance nursing leadership and innovation necessary to transform health care. Major barriers include the following: 1) outmoded admission standards that deter applicants with disabilities; 2) misconceptions about the capacity of students with disabilities to function effectively in the clinical components of nursing education; and, 3) lack of a comprehensive understanding of issues related to patient safety. This paper begins with an historical overview of the journey toward the acceptance of nurses with disabilities, including civil rights legislation, judicial rulings with reference to specific landmark cases, and the development of current technical and educational standards. The paper also presents a new model of technical standards inclusive of all students with and without disabilities, along with recommendations supportive of students with disabilities in admission, matriculation and graduation from nursing programs.