How reasonable adjustments have helped me succeed in nursing

Sammi Fuller is a staff nurse in oncology at the Trust and a Royal College of Nursing (RCN) steward. She is also deaf. Here, she shares her advice on making reasonable adjustments at work and explains how being deaf has helped her support colleagues.

Many people don’t realise I’m deaf on first meeting me. My hearing deteriorated throughout childhood and I was diagnosed as profoundly deaf aged 15.

I’ve had a lot of intense speech and language therapy and wear a discreet hearing aid, but I would definitely struggle without it.

Without my hearing aid, I cannot hear at all, so it’s important that I identify as deaf at work so that if something happens to my hearing aid, I’m not just expected to carry on as it will affect my ability to do my job.

Reasonable adjustments

As a student nurse, I was given special equipment so I could hear and use a stethoscope, and I was exempt from hearing-dependent jobs such as manual blood pressures.
Once I had qualified and got my first job as a nurse, I worked with occupational health and my manager to make sure reasonable adjustments were put in place.

Reasonable adjustments are adaptations at work that can include changes to working patterns, job descriptions, and policies or procedures, the environment or the provision of training and additional equipment.

Sammi Fuller"I worked with occupational health and my manager to make sure reasonable adjustments were put in place"

Any reasonable adjustments made in the workplace should work for both the employee and employer. This is why they are referred to as ‘reasonable’ because, in law, employers don’t have to make costly changes.

Many reasonable adjustments are simple and low-cost, such as alternating working patterns or allowing an employee a different parking space or seating arrangement.

I have access to my own room for patient care and an amplified telephone. I am also not to be moved to a busier ward I’m not familiar with if the ward is short staffed.

As a deaf person, working in a new environment is really tough and it could even affect your nursing registration (known as your PIN) as you’re not working to the standard you could be.

Working with my manager, we put a modified sickness attendance policy in place, so if I have an illness which is related to my deafness, I don’t have the same sickness restrictions that would normally apply to other NHS nursing staff.

I disclosed my disability at the recruitment stage, but you don’t have to disclose anything when applying for a job. But one advantage is that, if you meet the criteria and can show you can do the job, you are guaranteed an interview.

Sammi Fuller"Colleagues often come to me for advice as I have lived experience"

I also had an Access to Work interview, which is part of a government scheme to make sure people that need extra support in the workplace get it.

After being approached by other members of staff about various problems and for advice, I've become an RCN steward helping support RCN members and ensure they are treated fairly. Colleagues often come to me for advice as I have that lived experience to give advice where disability and reasonable adjustments are concerned.

I would love to see more deaf nurses. With reasonable adjustments, and as long as you know your limitations, then it’s easy.

Sammi’s tips for supporting staff with a disability

  • Listen to staff who want adjustments and ask them to put it in writing. Find out what they need and go through the job description to make sure all bases are covered. I found the support of my manager to be crucial in allowing me to carry out my job.
  • Do your research. Contact charities and find out more about the person’s illness or disability. Sometimes people don’t realise what they might need, so it’s good to do your own research. Don’t just make assumptions.
  • Read up on the Equality Act. Staff don’t need to worry as they are protected by this legislation in the workplace.
  • Work with occupational health and, if necessary, suggest that the member has an Access to Work interview. They don’t have to, but it might be useful and could lead to funding for reasonable adjustments
  • If you’re an RCN member, you can contact RCN Direct for support and advice. 

This post was originally published by the Royal College of Nursing. The Government’s Access to Work programme can support people with disabilities or health conditions to get support at work. Share this post on social to join the conversation as we celebrate #YearoftheNurseandMidwife