Advocacy 101: Learning How to Advocate for Yourself!
Are you trying to figure out how to get in school or stay in school?
Have you acquired a disability while working as a nurse and need help navigating the maze of services. The first step is to become a strong advocate for your self!
Below are some resources that can get you on your way to becoming a better advocate for yourself as a person with a disability.
- Advocating for yourself to get or stay in school
- Advocating for yourself to get or keep your job
- Empowering yourself through health promotion and taking charge of your health
- Work life experiences of nurses with disabilities
Nurses who develop disability or chronic health conditions after receiving their license to practice may think they are unable to work. Adjustment to disability takes time and some nurses may have to take time off for rehabilitation, learn how to use adaptive devices or assistive technologies, decide to go back to school, explore other specialty fields in nursing in order to ensure safe practice. Nurses are creative and have a high work ethic. Some nurses may have to tweak their careers in order to remain within the nursing profession and may have to adjust to a lifestyle change.
NOND suggests that you go to Who We Are and download the NOND 20017 Annual Report, Sharing Our Stories: Hear Our Voices that includes information about members of NOND Board of Directors and Advisory Committee. Necessity is the mother of invention and if you want to remain in nursing learn “What is Possible” in the annual report.
Nurses may also need to learn how to become their own best self advocate, learn about disclosure of their disability to employers, and how to request reasonable accommodations if needed.
Always keep your medical documentation updated with HR by submitting more recent letters from you physician if your disability or chronic health condition status changes. Although Managers may be willing to provide accommodations, ensure you have submitted accommodation requests and documentation also to HR. Mangers “come and go.” If the HR Dept. does not know you are receiving accommodations and a new Manager is uninformed, they may not be willing to provide the same accommodations you have been receiving. Relationships are important at work but receiving accommodations may be associated with your ability to perform the essential functions of the job and is about the ADA. Protect yourself!
If you believe you are experiencing discrimination at work try the following options first:
- Read your institution’s’ employee handbook to ensue you follow guidelines on who you contact first inside the institution,
- If your institution has an Ombudsman, contact this person,
- If your institution has an ADA Officer (usually Human Resources representative), contact HR.
- If you have requested reasonable accommodations and disclosed your disability to your employer, ensure you have provided documentation/ letter from your physician.
- Medical documentation should be kept secure.
- Disclosure of disability to HR is required if you need reasonable accommodations to meet the essential functions of the job. Once you disclose, an interactive process with your employer should begin.
- NOND suggests you disclose your disability if accommodations are required as having no accommodations may impact your work quality and performance evaluation. If your employer does not know you have a disability the employer cannot interact with you.
If all else fails in your communication attempts with your employer and you believe you are experiencing discrimination at the work place, you have the option and right to file an EEOC case. Please know filing an EEOC case can be a long drawn out process. It is also important to know under ADA you should not experience any retaliation/ bullying because you have filed an EEOC case.
Information that may be helpful to you is as follows:
US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
EEOC Enforcement Guidance: Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship under the Americans with Disabilities Act https://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/accommodation.html
EEOC Enforcement Guidance: The Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 https://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/fmlaada.html
EEOC Fact Sheet on the EEOC’s Final Regulations Implementing the ADAAA https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/regulations/adaaa_fact_sheet.cfm
EEOC ENFORCEMENT GUIDANCE: DISABILITY-RELATED INQUIRIES AND MEDICAL EXAMINATIONS OF EMPLOYEES UNDER THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT (ADA) https://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/guidance-inquiries.html