April 24, 2024
No Barriers

Photo: USF Health

The Able Trust and USF Health's College of Nursing provide students with disabilities hands-on exposure to aspects of nursing.

Economic Backbone: Nursing

No Barriers

Vickie Chachere | 11/30/2023

Able Trust is a non-profit organization that works to connect Floridians with disabilities to career opportunities. Recently, the Able Trust teamed up with the University of South Florida’s nursing college for a first-of-its-kind summer program to introduce high school students who never thought they could pursue a career in nursing to see the possibilities.

During a two-day immersive experience, students were introduced to some of the basics of the nursing profession including patient care such as bandaging wounds and performing CPR, workshops, lectures and the teamwork that’s a major part of any health care system. The students are participants in the Able Trust’s High School High Tech program, which is designed to provide students with all types of disabilities the opportunity to explore jobs or postsecondary education for in-demand careers.

“It was a great experience,” student Aubrey Wernet told the USF Health College of Nursing after the program. “I loved the hands-on activities and learned so much. I would highly recommend this program to students who want to investigate the medical field.”

Nursing organizations advocating for greater diversity in the field say people with disabilities are often overlooked as a source of nursing talent to the detriment of patients. Recent research published by the American Nurses Association underscores the unique potential nurses who have disabilities can bring to understanding and being responsive to patients.

The Able Trust’s High School High Tech programs operate in 42 sites across Florida. The program has been shown to reduce dropout rates among students with disabilities and increase their interest in pursuing careers previously thought of as out of reach, organizers say. About 20.4% of working-age Floridians with disabilities are employed, compared to 63% of similar residents without disabilities. That’s the third lowest of any state in the U.S., the Able Trust says.

The non-profit says its efforts are helping uncover nursing talent that might be lost, pointing to one star example: Melisa Lewis, who thought at one time that an auditory processing deficit and hearing loss would keep her from fulfilling her dream of becoming a nurse. She participated in the High School High Tech program, went on to earn an associate’s degree in health care at Santa Fe College and graduated magna cum laude from the University of Central Florida College of Nursing. — By Vickie Chachere

Tags: Healthcare, Feature, Economic Backbone: Nursing

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