“I Can Understand Where They’re Coming From”: How Clinicians’ Disability Experiences Shape Their Interaction With Clients

Alfiya Battalova, Laura Bulk, Laura Nimmon, Rachelle Hole, Terry Krupa, Michael Lee, Yael Mayer, Tal Jarus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Students and clinicians with disabilities are underrepresented in the academic health programs and professional clinical settings. Disability studies foregrounds the unique ways of knowing and being that clinicians with disabilities can offer. Based on a larger grounded theory study of the experiences of students and clinicians with disabilities, this article examines the role that clinicians’ abilities to draw on their personal experiences of living with a disability have on their interactions with clients. The analysis of semistructured interviews with 55 students and clinicians with disabilities from different fields contributes to the development of a theory of epistemic connection. The theory is informed by the following three themes: (a) building rapport through understanding, (b) from understanding to advocacy and creative approaches, and (c) between professionalism and disability. The findings emphasize not only the importance of diversifying the health care workforce but also incorporating disability epistemology into the health care culture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2064-2076
Number of pages13
JournalQualitative Health Research
Issue number13
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This study was supported by Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), reference number 133407.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.


  • Canada
  • North America
  • North Americans
  • clinicians
  • communication
  • disability
  • epistemology
  • grounded theory
  • health sciences
  • interaction with clients
  • interviews
  • qualitative
  • qualitative methods
  • research design

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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