Roughly 20% of the population are living with a disability. For many, medical attention is frequently required, and as the world is structured to cater towards able-bodied people, those with a disability encounter various struggles throughout their lives, particularly when selecting careers. But what about when those with a disability choose to pursue becoming a physician, and potentially provide care both for those who are able-bodied and those who are not?

Difficulties for People with Disabilities Attending Med School

An incredibly small percentage of physicians across the world are practising with a disability. Many of those who do actually developed their disabilities once they had already completed their training. Most medical schools are notorious for not only admitting incredibly low amounts of disabled students, but also lack the appropriate facilities to accommodate those that are, leading to higher attrition rates. For those who are disabled to succeed, they generally must be taken under the wing of a teacher or mentor attracted by their talents or achievements.

How Introducing More Physicians with Disabilities Can Help

Naturally, disabilities vary amongst us all, some being inhibited from performing various functions more than others. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Although there have been strides made in recent years to improve the health care system for people with different needs, it can still create great difficulties for many in our society. Whether it be a lack of accessible medical equipment, appropriate methods of transport, or any of a number of different issues, the barriers exist because of a lack of representation for those who need them in the industry. Based on pre-conceived stigmatisms held up by able-bodied doctors, inaccurate assumptions are being made about someone else’s life, simply because of their particular disability.

If, on the other hand, more hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities employed more physicians with a disability, then they could not only better understand what patients with similar conditions are experiencing, but also provide invaluable suggestions for more inclusive improvements. For example, doctors who are deaf or hard of hearing appreciate how similar patients take in words or phrases, and create better strategies to accommodate them.

The Issues Moving Forward

The problem is that, in order to introduce more physicians with disabilities, veritable proof will have to be provided that such actions wouldn’t lower the standards of health care, and, if extra resources are attributed to the cause, actually improve it, to quell any critics. After all, practising medicine comes with plenty of demanding professional, personal, and cognitive demands. It is therefore unexpected that those with disorders leaving them unable to be deemed competent in observation, communication, motor, conceptual, integrative, and quantitative skills will become qualified physicians. A patient’s treatment must remain the primary concern.

What We Stand to Gain

And yet, people with disabilities are still patients. No matter how they differ from the larger populous around them, everyone deserves the best treatment and care that can be offered. Whether introducing more physicians with disabilities into the healthcare system would actually help to subvert the barriers mentioned earlier, and improve the quality of care for patients with special needs or not isn’t clear. However, in attempts to reduce inequalities amongst races and ethnicities, research has shown that patients significantly benefit from being treated by someone of their own background, as they distrust those who do not share their experiences. This makes them more willing to cooperate, communicate, and garner more trust in their healthcare professional. The same can be for those with disabilities. Fostering a sound understanding of what particular patients are forced to endure by people who have endured it themselves, will naturally lead to revealing flaws in the system, and the avenues to rectify them.