Healthcare professionals with disabilities face additional challenges that others might not encounter. Many patients seeking treatment expect their care providers to be free from mental or physical impairments of any kind, and might not respond well to those with a disability. Moreover, many medical jobs require that you be on your feet through most or all of your shift, or have the physical strength to assist disabled or elderly patients. While finding a healthcare job with a disability can be a challenge, there are opportunities out there if you have the right qualifications.
Clinical Social Worker
Clinical social workers diagnose and treat mental, behavioral and emotional issues. They are employed in hospitals, clinics, government agencies, schools and private practice. A physical disability is not an issue here because the work mainly involves assessing clients and diagnosing their illnesses, creating treatment plans and providing counseling services in an office setting. Clinical social workers must have a master’s degree and state license to practice, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ramps for wheelchairs, adequate accessibility into offices and technology adapted to assist the physically handicapped may be needed to accommodate a licensed clinical social worker with a disability.
Medical scientists might be involved in a number of different areas, from performing clinical trials or conducting medical investigations to developing medical instruments. These types of jobs can be easily done by disabled persons. For example, those with hearing impairments can handle the research and clinical work, relying on interpreters only during meetings with other staff. Medical scientists in wheelchairs can prepare samples to test for toxicity, bacteria and other organisms, write research grants and do most laboratory tests with accessible equipment and adequate space. Medical scientists usually need a Ph.D. in the life sciences or biology, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The field is expected to grow by about 36 percent from 2010 to 2020, well above the 14 percent projected growth rate for all occupations.
Medical Facility Administrator
Health care facilities rely on the business office to hire and train staff, manage budgets and oversee billing procedures, among many other duties. The BLS reports that medical and health services managers need at least a bachelor’s degree, preferably in health administration, though many positions require a master’s degree in public health, long-term care administration or health services. A blind health services administrator might rely on computers equipped with assistive technology, while a wheelchair-bound administrator needs physical access to the building and the offices. Someone with a hearing handicap might require the services of an interpreter for meetings, a vibrating pager and accessible telephone equipment.
Medical Records Technician
All health care facilities, ranging from the neighborhood doctor’s office to the regional hospital system, hire personnel to handle billing and records. Since most of the work is done at a desk in an office environment, it can be easily handled by someone with a physical disability. For example, medical records and health information technicians are hired to organize and manage patient and insurance data, using both paper and electronic systems. According to the BLS, the typical educational requirement is a postsecondary certificate, though many have an associate’s degree as well as professional certification. Reasonable accommodations may include special desks and computer equipment, accessible offices and washrooms and flexible scheduling.