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Disabilities

Cori Poffenberger and Mizuho Morrison, DO
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Miz interviews Dr.Cori Poffenberger to discuss common misconceptions of caring for patients with disabilities, and why those misconceptions are problematic. They identify simple steps we can take to provide high quality and culturally appropriate care.

Pearls:

  • The language that we use around disability has a lot of power and its important that we be thoughtful in how we address these patients.

 

Perception of Healthcare Providers Amongst Patients with Disabilities

  • Some patients feel healthcare providers use language that devalues them. 

  • Patients with disabilities may feel that healthcare providers  are not willing to understand their experience and what their priorities are. 

  • Some see healthcare providers go too far to make everything all about their disability when they should be treated as a person first.

 

Changing Our Language 

  • Add modifiers clarifying that the person has a  physical disability, a cognitive disability or a psychiatric disability.

  • Instead of saying the person is “wheelchair bound”, say they are a “wheelchair user.”  

  • Similarly, instead of saying a patient is “handicapped”, use the term “person with a disability”, or use “accessible” when describing parking spaces or bathroom stalls, rather than “handicapped stalls” or “handicapped parking spaces.”

  • The autistic community prefers identity-first language, “autistic,” rather than person-first language,  “a person with autism.” Ask the patient what they prefer.

  • Remove words in our lexicon such as suffering, afflicted, crippled, unfortunate that are negatively descriptive and don't add value.

 

Changing Our Mindset

  • As healthcare providers we may have very specific negative attitudes or conceptions about what the quality of life is like for people with disabilities, what they can do for themselves and their ability to be independent. This  underlying bias then pervades all of our interactions with them.

  • It's important to first reflect on our own implicit bias and how that may affect our patients.

  • Spending time interacting with people with disabilities and learning a bit more about their lives will make us more comfortable caring for this patient population.

  • Do not make assumptions regarding what the patient’s life  is like outside of a medical setting.

  • Always assume the person in front of you is capable of participating in their own care.

  • Consider how we can modify our society to be more inclusive so that everyone can participate.

References:  

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Disabilities Matter Full episode audio for MD edition 197:35 min - 93 MB - M4AHippo Urgent Care RAP - August 2019 Written Summary 403 KB - PDF

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