You’d expect nurses to be the most liberal, compassionate and empathetic of colleagues, and I am sure many are.
But those attributes are not universal among the profession or the NHS that employs them, according to a report by our journalist Jo Stephenson on page 6.
She has spoken to several nurses with disabilities who have been unable to find permanent jobs and one who was even asked by a nurse who noticed her disability while she was a student undergoing her training.
With the workforce in its worst crisis for years, what we need are nurses – and good ones, with a range of life experience. You could see why nurses living with long-term conditions or disabilities would have experience and empathy that would make them exceptionally well-suited to care for others facing similar challenges.
The NHS must make it easier for those nurses to train and work. I understand how hard it must be to make a reasonable adjustment (which the law demands of employers), when you are short-staffed and under pressure, but the alternative is being even more short-staffed and under greater pressure.
But this isn’t just about the numbers – although that alone should be a good motivator for nursing colleagues and managers to make adjustments for colleagues with a disability.
As an organisation that prides itself on treating others fairly and with dignity and respect, the NHS should be the epitome of equality.
But according to the nurses we spoke to, often managers were forced to give them longer hours that were simply unworkable because of their disability.
In many cases, it was those nurses’ peers who made it difficult for them to continue working – either by the comments they made or by refusing to accept that they were unable to work the same hours or shifts as their colleagues.
The NHS should be a role model as a caring employer, and I am sure in many instances that it is. However, this story underlines how this is not consistent across the service.
So why is this? Is the NHS so inflexible and so under pressure that it simply cannot afford to be compassionate?