Disabled healthcare professionals’ diverse, embodied, and socially embedded experiences

Laura Yvonne Bulk, Julia Tikhonova, Jennifer M. Gagnon, Alfiya Battalova, Yael Mayer, Terry Krupa, Michael Lee, Laura Nimmon, Tal Jarus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Disabled people are underrepresented within healthcare professions, although their participation has potential benefits for them personally, and for broader society. Disabled peoples’ participation in healthcare professions is limited by assumptions about disability. Little research explores how healthcare professions can be organized to support disabled peoples’ employment. Within a critical realist paradigm influenced by grounded theory, this study used interviews to explore the experiences of 56 disabled healthcare clinicians and students, and advance a conceptual taxonomy of disability experience within healthcare professions. Participants describe their experiences of disability in the healthcare professional context in terms of characteristics and dimensions of disability—how characteristics interact with factors within healthcare training and practice environments. We profile two particularly salient dimensions of the disability experience: visibility and onset of disability. These are developed to describe complexity and specificity of the experiences of individuals negotiating the healthcare context. Among participants there is extensive heterogeneity related to the experience of disability in healthcare professional contexts. Despite some having similar disability characteristics, no two individuals experience the same combination of characteristics and dimensions of disability. Given the complexity of experiences for disabled healthcare professionals/students, a taxonomy for conceptualizing this experience is presented. Readers are encouraged to consider the taxonomy through which they might conceptualize individual, embodied, and socially embedded experiences of disabled healthcare professionals and students. Stakeholders involved in healthcare professions and education should consider this shift in perspective, with a view to increasing access of disabled people to health professional practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-129
Number of pages19
JournalAdvances in Health Sciences Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, Springer Nature B.V.


  • Clinician perspectives
  • Disability experiences
  • Healthcare education
  • Healthcare employment
  • Healthcare professions
  • Student perspectives

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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