Disability, Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity
Doctors, like any other professional group, can experience ill health or disability.Disability may occur at any point in their studies or professional career, or, even, long before they become interested in medicine.
What is a disability?
Awareness of disability issues can be poor amongst some medical professionals. Both mental and physical disability in doctors are very diverse.
"I strongly believe that a vital component of the relationship between the medical profession and disabled citizens is not just the treatment of disabled patients but how healthcare organisations treat disabled employees at all levels. Surveys indicate that most patients have no problem with being treated by disabled doctors; partly as a result of shared experiences and a greater understanding of patients’ needs. But this report outlines the negative attitudes which have prevented disabled doctors from pursuing a medical career." Sir Bert Massie
General context of Disability
Any person can become disabled at any time. Many personal and professional conflicts arise when doctors become patients, and these seem to multiply when doctors develop disabilities.
‘Patient acceptance’ is a concern that weighs heavily on most physicians with developing disabilities. Research has shown that for a physician, in the face of new disability, the physician-patient relationship holds up well.
The reaction from patients to ‘visible’ disabilities can be quite interesting. For example, Dr Cheri Blauwet, writing in the New York Times, comments.
“In my busy outpatient clinical practice, I witness the spectrum of patients’ reactions when they find out that their doctor is, herself, disabled. Typically those first few seconds after entering an exam room — before the patient’s guard goes up — are the most informative.”
This is, actually, not an uncommon reaction. See, for example, also Dr Kelly Lockwood’s experience on BBC News, as reported in July 2018.