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OPINION

We must support nurses with learning difficulties

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Dyslexia is known as a hidden disability, and most people are never formally diagnosed

Jason gordon texthelp

Revalidation is live and causing waves of nervous anticipation in nurses and midwives up and down the country, but the process of revalidation can be onerous for nurses who are not as digitally confident as they should be.

First, let’s be clear – there’s a lot at stake here. Nurses who don’t revalidate successfully and in time will not be able to work. So it’s in everyone’s interest to master the process even if they are not due to revalidate for some time.

The process requires the completion of multiple online forms and written accounts via the NMC revalidation website. For many of us, online forms and processes are the norm, but those who are less digitally confident will need support.

I’ve already heard, anecdotally, of older nurses so put off by the online element of revalidation that they are thinking of retiring early to avoid it. Think of the years of knowledge and experience potentially lost unless these nurses are supported through the online process.

And if it’s burdensome for nurses with low digital skills, how are staff with dyslexia or language challenges going to cope? The British Dyslexia Association estimates that one in 10 people have dyslexia, but RCN evidence suggests that in nursing it’s even higher, with an estimated 14% of student nurses having dyslexia.

Dyslexia is known as a hidden disability, and most people are never formally diagnosed. Many are reluctant to disclose it in the workplace due to the stigma associated. Speak to people with dyslexia and sadly every one of them will recount stories of being branded as stupid. The perception of dyslexia is improving but many still don’t understand the condition.

I have heard some stories of nurses and midwives affected by dyslexia who choose not to disclose, preferring not to stand out as needing special treatment. They’ve developed their own coping strategies - staying late to write up notes, learning things off by heart to avoid reading in front of patients or colleagues, adding stress to an already difficult job.

Imagine how dyslexic staff will feel starting the revalidation process, having to complete multiple forms online, practice-related feedback and written reflective accounts. They will undoubtedly need extra support to do so successfully.

Alternative support arrangements do exist and if you have a disability recognised under the Equality Act 2010, of which dyslexia is one, the requirements for revalidation are much less onerous. But this is little comfort to staff who struggle to deal with dyslexia on their own, choosing not to disclose it and stand out from their peers.

The NMC website has already taken steps to make the website more accessible, with the availability of ‘read aloud’ and translation support (look for the ‘Listen with Browsealoud’ link at the bottom of every webpage). While this software will read aloud and translate guidance notes and content, dyslexic nurses will need more support as they complete online forms and record their ‘reflections’.

Literacy support software could offer an effective solution, as will ‘how to’ videos, and video case studies of dyslexic nurses who’ve successfully completed revalidation. Most importantly though, nurses and midwives affected by print disabilities must feel they can ask for help - and be fully supported from their employers when they do so.

We’re already experiencing a shortage of nurses and midwives in the UK and need to do everything we can to attract more into the profession. If we don’t want to lose staff as unintended casualties of revalidation, we need to ensure the right support is in place.

Professionals who have successfully completed revalidation report that, looking back, the process has been a highly positive one. We must make sure the right support is in place for nurses and midwives with dyslexia, low digital confidence and language challenges to make it a positive experience for them too.

Jason Gordon works for Texthelp, a company producing digital inclusion and assistive software products that are used by adults and students worldwide

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