Supporting the individual: reasonable adjustments and flexibility
Critical to supporting disabled medical students and doctors through their education and training is talking to the individual about their needs.
Every person will have a different experience and a unique outlook from managing their health condition or disability. By having bespoke conversations with a learner, the training organisation can decide with them if they can be supported with changes to the environment, equipment, or processes.
Reasonable adjustments will take many forms, but medical educators and employers should work with the learner to try and remove barriers that place them at a substantial disadvantage because of their disability.
Here, disabled students and trainees talk about the reasonable adjustments that made a difference to their training, and the barriers they've sometimes faced in securing them.
Getting reasonable adjustments right
‘I’ve received support for my training by working part-time, being exempted from some duties, such as carrying an arrest page, and being supported to find adaptive equipment, such as a mobility scooter. All these measures were vital in enabling me to work in a way that was safe for me and my patients.
I was also given voice activated software. This unfortunately was not that useful, as I rarely have a quiet enough space for it to function adequately.’
Reasonable adjustments and less than full time training
'My main concern was being able to respond quickly enough to assist in emergency caesarean sections, due to the gynaecology ward being at the opposite end of the hospital to the obstetrics unit. The hospital trust’s occupational health department solved this problem by renting me a mobility scooter. My colleagues were supportive and never made me feel self-conscious about using it. In fact, they sometimes used it themselves when they were on call overnight!’
‘The medical school eventually agreed to make reasonable adjustments for a practical exam – they would provide a stool and a helper to move the stool. The helper was not allowed to hold my crutches however which meant I could not physically take the exam – I was not allowed to rest my crutches on a table or the floor whilst writing answers on a clipboard.’
Different support at different times
‘I have benefitted from different support/adjustments at different times, depending on the work environment and my level of functioning. One postgraduate training organisation offered me supernumerary flexible training with high quality occupational health input, this made the biggest difference. I was able to train with a tailor-made training plan and timetable. Adjustments were readily made which also took fluctuations of my conditions into account.’
Accessing specialist equipment
‘…Doctors find themselves having to request new specialist equipment when they move trust, because trusts want to retain equipment purchased for the doctor when they leave. Even getting the equipment within a single trust can be challenging. As a foundation trainee you rotate every four months, and that in my experience means no single department wants to pay the bill.’
Able medics podcast
Listen to episode three of our Able medics podcast where we discuss how flexibility and tailored reasonable adjustments can help keep more medics in university and at work, and support them through challenging career transitions.
Read the full experiences of other disabled medical students and doctors where they talk about what they bring to the profession, how their disability or health condition has been viewed, reasonable adjustments, moving through medical education and training, and what they would change to improve the culture of support.