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Are students with dyslexia supported in their nurse training?


Student nurse, Catherine, found healthcare professionals gave mixed reactions to her dyslexia diagnosis

Catherine Jelly_SNT

Catherine Jelly is in her third year studying adult nursing at University of Bedfordshire

If someone were to ask me two years ago to create a piece of writing to be read by any number of people, I would have been petrified; but starting university two years ago and finally getting that diagnosis of dyslexia has given me so much more confidence in my writing ability.

Throughout my time at school, I was constantly told by teachers that I would never get anywhere in life, but I was determined to prove them wrong. So after getting my A levels, I applied to university to study my life’s passion: nursing.

During the first year of my course I was advised to take a test to screen for learning disabilities and after a number of tests with a psychiatrist, I finally got the diagnosis that I was always waiting for – I was dyslexic.

It may sound strange but I was so thankful for being dyslexic because at least I could then stand up and say that I am not stupid or useless, but that there’s actually a reason for the way things were.

“It may sound strange but I was so thankful for being dyslexic”

The university have been amazing with the support they have given me; I have a tutor to assist me with organisation skills and proof reading, and software that makes reading off a screen easier.

However, this support doesn’t always show in placements. Some staff I’ve worked with have been very supportive with my learning, giving me enough time to read through a patients notes, for example, or by sitting down and explaining how to fill in forms. But other staff I’ve come across simply can’t see why I face these difficulties.

One of my biggest problems is filling in forms. As many nurses and allied healthcare professionals will know, the NHS and other healthcare services are full of forms and paperwork that needs to be filled out for every single patient.

“the NHS and other healthcare services are full of forms and paperwork”

The other day I explained to a colleague that I wanted to stay within the trust I am currently training in because I’m familiar with the paperwork. When I politely explained why, their reply was that paperwork is always changing and that I was using my dyslexia as an excuse.

I have gone through numerous placements where it wasn’t until the last week or day that I informed them of my learning disability. Many colleagues have been surprised as they’d made comments about how good my written communication skills are.

Statistics show that between 3-10% of the nursing population admit to having dyslexia. With such a large number of nurses with the condition, the reaction it receives from some healthcare professionals is shocking.

With my role as a Care Maker and the role I have at training, I am more determined than ever to provide solidarity to those who have been in situations like mine.


Catherine Jelly is in her third year studying adult nursing at University of Bedfordshire


Readers' comments (9)

  • I, am third year student nurse who has recently failed my last placement, am carrying on though! Was supported in my last placement but felt that my mentor took my dypraxia so seriously that it impeded my learning. Lack of understanding regarding a diagnosis can make things very difficult for a student. I found the whole experience nerve racking and my level of anxiety was such that it impacted upon my performance which ultimately led to me failing! Not sure what advice i can give to anyone if anything it has made me more determined to prove them wrong.

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  • I am also a 3rd year student who was diagnosed late into my course and also failed my last placement due to the intensity and the fact that my mentors had no understanding on how I learnt and one wasn’t interested in being a mentor either, so her lack of enthusiasm showed throughout and harboured by learning. Even though university are more in touch with this, their staffing levels are limited which means you don’t always get the support there either. I am hoping post qualifying things will improve but the low confidence due to the dyslexia could hinder this. I have consent doubts about my own ability despite good mentors telling me I am doing fine but unless you are dyslexia you don’t understand what someone is going through. Since I discovered I was, I have informed placements right at the beginning but sadly I feel in always falls on deaf ears.

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  • I am dyslexic and dyspraxic but I look at it a different way I agree mentors require a knowledge of my diagnoses however the onus is on myself also to meet the requirements, if I do not meet competencies even because of my DD I have not met them and must resit to be the best nurse I can be. I believe that I must be able to perform equally to those without as the requirements are there for a purpose. I will prob end up on a ward or unit as in community i often had to go back for things i forgot, no worries with that on a ward. Working to strengths not weaknesses and finding strategies has been the key to my journey so far. Regardless of whether a person has a learning difficulty or not nurses are all required to meet the same minimum standards

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  • Its sad to see that others are having the same difficulties as i highlighted in my blog. Some people dont seem to realise that having dyslexia means that it can take you twice as long to do things. Ive had other students complaining that I have extra time for assignments and that its only because of this that i am getting good grades. The lack of understandin about dyslexia and other learning disabilities is unnerving. Ive begun to not mention it to some staff members because they tend to treat you as if you cant do the simplalist of things.

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  • I am dyslexic and dyspraxic. I am currently creating a visual image with notes for my mentor(s) as I need a quick and simple way of showing where I am likely to need more support relating to clinical skills. I am already spending a lot of 'extra time' as other students do to keep up with the requirements of the course. I would ask mentors to acknowledge it is 2 way and a little patience and support rather than scorn and criticism is really appreciated.

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  • I to am dyslexia and dyspraxia, as you will tell by this. I have just finished a foundation degree and have just got a place to do my nurse training. I had a fantastic mentor that understood my dyslexia. Unfortunately she has left now. The problem I have with some is they don't understand dyslexia and how it can make you feel. I get use spell check. Um that don't work of you have dyslexia. I don't expect to be treated different to any other student if I fail a module then I fail. But I wish some would understand it takes a bit longer to write essay or take notes. I made some good friends in the classes that let me take there notes if I wasn't fast enough to write them down. But I did find that if I had an opinion some didn't want to listen to me. We are not stupid some the the most well off people are dyslexic IE Richard Branston for one. I wish there was a course that helped staff understand dyslexic or maybe it should be added added to a mentor ship course to help mentors understand.

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  • I am dyslexic I had some big battles during my nurse training and even 7 yrs into being a qualified nurse. People have a lack of understanding toward what dyslexia is, comments like you’re too clever to be dyslexic and does that mean you can’t spell??
    I have approached managers in the past who have been much unsupported with regard to my lack of confidence filling out forms and applications for university and other in house training. One manager once questioned how I was employed for a current job because I hadn't completed a course when I approached her later I told her the reason I hadn't completed the course was that found it difficult filling in the relevant information on the application form. the manager told me this was a stupid excuse for not applying? this really lowered the confidence i had in my managers and there understanding in my learning needs.

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  • I will be starting my studies this year as a mature student. Like you, I too am dyslexic and it has been a concern of mine that I might struggle with the paperwork.
    I was diagnosed with dyslexia at a young age and have experienced many different reactions from people. Some people can be very patronising (although well intentioned) others just don't get it, on the rare occasion I will meet someone who actually understands.
    Over the years I have realised that there is not a great deal to be gained by telling everyone. So I keep it fairly close to my chest.
    When it comes to completing the paperwork, I think you just have to accept that you will find it harder than others. Keep slogging at it. In my experience dyslexics are perfectly capable of both administrative and academic tasks, we just take a little longer adapting; eventually it will all click into place.
    The greatest benefit of being diagnosis with dyslexia is to improve your own understanding of yourself. As a dyslexic there will be tasks that you find much easier than other people. These are usually visual and special understanding, abstract/creative thinking, ‘seeing the bigger picture’. Often it is difficult to recognise these benefits. For example whilst learning anatomy and physiology you may feel you are falling behind because of all the crazy names and spellings you have to learn. But when it comes to understanding the actually principles at work and how these related in the holistic whole body system; I bet you are picking this up quicker than others. At the end of the day what’s more important; getting the spelling perfect or really understanding what happening?

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  • inform your trainers at the beginning

    If you don't ,it can cause havoc with your performance . I should know..I am dyslexic and told nobody ,yet sounding incredibly articulate and on top of things. I suffered the fatigue that goes with dyslexia . It will spill into other areas of your life and won't go away. It is nothing to be ashamed of so ask for help inorder to manage it properly .dyslexic tend to be very bright and astute so don't shoot yourself in the foot.

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