Disabled people are rarely strangers to hospitals and other medical environments. Could this experience lead to a career in the medical sector?

At first glance you might say that the link is at best, tenuous and at worst, plainly non-existent – rather like suggesting that anyone that’s ever been on a bus become Minister for Transport, perhaps. Taking a closer look at the idea however, reveals that there’s actually quite a bit going for it.

As we all know, there is massive diversity within disability; from the sensory spectrum right through to physical and intellectual disabilities. Perhaps the one sector in the whole employment sphere with a similarly broad spectrum is healthcare.


If you consider, for a moment, your last visit to an outpatient clinic, the likelihood is that you didn’t just meet with your doctor but had lots of little meetings with other ancillary staff too. It’s entirely possible that you nodded a good morning to the cleaners or even gave your details to porters, receptionists, nurses, students, doctors and the lady that made your coffee in the patient canteen. On certain days, when you’ve had other tests or results you could add in any of a number of other roles: physios, consultants, radiologists and so on and so on.

Clearly, some of the roles I’ve mentioned are highly qualified and skilled and will take years to acquire through diligent study and experience. Others, however, are voluntary and require next to no specific skills or experience to make a start in.

What you’ll realise is that places like hospitals are all about people. The difference between a ‘good’ visit and a ‘bad’ visit, whether as an admitted patient or an outpatient is usually down to people and how we get on with them. Poor directions or somebody in a bad mood can amount to a visit you’ll want to forget, just because of very small issues that amount to nothing especially important.


A good visit tends to be when you get good information (directions or a helpful comment) and being treated politely and efficiently (and that includes waiting times, of course). It’s the simple things that make all the difference; simple things that you might be able to provide.

As I said, disabled people have a mountain of experience that can be mined by those that haven’t. I would say that on more or less every outpatient appointment I’ve been to in the last 10 years (and that’s quite a few) I’ve helped someone standing underneath a signpost looking increasingly worried as the clock ticks towards their appointment time. It’s simple stuff but that’s the difference between that patient having to wait a long time (because they were late) and having a neat, efficient appointment. Hospital visits would be lonely and frightening without these small interactions.

You might also suggest that anyone could work in a hospital – and you’d be right but for disabled people, I think it’s got definite advantages. The top of the list is accessibility and facilities. Of course, because of the variety of patients that go in and out of hospitals the infrastructure has to be equipped for people with all manner of challenges. The things that make the difference are predictably simple: Braille signage and trails along the corridors, hearing induction loops and automatic doors among them.


The breadth of roles available means that there’s likely to be something that plays to your strengths. You may want to use your physical strength as a porter or in the mailroom or have particular organisational skills and experience, in which case, a clerical role perhaps beckons. Naturally, even in the ‘back office’ portions of a hospital you’ll find assistive technology built into the communication systems and computer network.

Not only is there a huge variation in the sort of role you could look for but because hospitals are open 24 hours a day they need staff with all manner of different working patterns and preferences. As well as that you’ll find that different clinics are only open on certain days and so on, meaning that you might well end up working shifts that can be changed or swapped amongst willing colleagues to suit other needs. (This will be particularly prevalent in the voluntary roles.)

One thing that has always caught my eye in hospitals is the camaraderie that exists between employees of all sorts. It’s a cliché to call it a family and in any case, I suspect that it’s more of a ‘community’ where everyone has a role to play.

Where could you fit in?