Makenna Presnell Advocating for Changes in Nursing

Makenna Presnell is a nursing student from Spokane, Washington, USA and she wants the world to know that nurses with disabilities are the ultimate resource for patients.

Like most people with CP, Makenna understands the patient experience, having spent plenty of time in hospitals and therapy centres throughout her life.

Makenna says she’s wanted to be a nurse since she was seven years old, and excitingly, she’ll graduate in May 2021.

While she’s thrilled to work in her dream job, she also has other goals.

Makenna is Making Her Mark through advocacy, as she aims to make healthcare and education more accessible, and change its image to encourage more people with disabilities to enter the field.

“Nursing is predominantly seen as a field where everyone is able,” Makenna says.

“I often get a lot of ‘what are you doing here?’, because people don’t understand that just about every nursing task can be accommodated to make it work for someone with a disability (within reason).”

“I want people to question WHY they think a disabled person can’t do this job, and I want them to learn from the way I accommodate for my body, because their patients are making those accommodations too,” Makenna continues.

At her university, Makenna says she’s the first person with a disability to go through the nursing program. While this statistic is in issue in itself, Makenna says a bigger issue is that it’s probably not true at all.

“In my experience, disclosing that I have a disability has led to discrimination, so I don’t think it’s that no one with a disability has completed the program, I think it’s that they’ve chosen not to disclose that they have a disability.

By not disclosing that they have a disability, Makenna fears those individuals are missing out on the opportunity to find ways to complete tasks that work better for them.

She also wants more people with CP to feel like they have permission to disclose their disability, as a lack of representation is a major reason why there are still barriers to change.

When asked what needs to change, Makenna said:

“I’d like to see flexible schedules be an option in most, if not all, professions, although I realize that may be less than optimal for healthcare fields.

“I’d like to see appropriate staffing ratios in all healthcare fields (which is an ongoing problem for able and disabled healthcare providers alike).

“I’d like to see all collegiate institutions think about how they would educate students with disabilities.”

Makenna is a big believer that every challenge has a solution, and this one, she says, starts by proving it can be done.

“It wasn’t until I joined the National Organization of Nurses with Disabilities and started following disabled nurses on Instagram that I believed I could really do this work. It’s all about sticking together!” said Makenna.

Through her advocacy work, she’s aiming to change the narrative.

“It’s not that people with disabilities don’t want to be nurses, it’s that nursing jobs and programs are inaccessible, and are long overdue for change.”

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