Dr. Suzanne C. Smeltzer
June 23, 2020 - 2:00pm to 3:00pm

Joyce welcomes Dr. Suzanne C. Smeltzer, professor and director of the Office of Nursing Research and Evaluation at Villanova University to the show. Dr. Smetzer is a nationally recognize health care expert, nurse and author. She will discuss her views on the impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities.

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TRANSCRIPT

BENDER CONSULTING SERVICES

DISABILITY MATTERS

WITH JOYCE BENDER

JUNE 23, 2020

1:00 P.M. (CT)

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>> ANNOUNCER: Welcome to disability matters with your host Joyce bender. All comments, views on the show are the host's, guests and callers. Now the voice of disability matters, here's Joyce Bender.

 

>> JOYCE BENDER: Hello. Welcome everybody. I hope you are having a great day as you are managing through this pandemic. Wow let me tell you what, this is a whole new world isn't it. I mean, sometimes you know I'll be watching TV and I'll see like you know it is a movie or ad or something with people like time's square all out shopping and I'll think, wow, yeah we were like that once. That's how we used to be. We were that way. And it's sometimes hard to imagine that this happened to us. But, at the same time, I want to tell you, I'm all about following the rules. And I hope you are too. And I'm talking about wearing the mask, social distancing, and washing your hands.

 

You know, I told someone the other day that said to me, what's the big deal about masks. I said, do you have anyone elderly in your family because you are taking it to them if you do have the Coronavirus. But, you know, this is not a US thing, this is global. This is around the world. And I want a special shout‑out to my listeners around the world. And once again, first place is China. I cannot believe how many people in China listen to this show. And I just want you to know how much it means to me and I hope that you spread the news about this radio show.

 

Also, a special shout‑out to my two friends, Richard Roberts and Gung Young in Japan and South Korea who work for the state department. When I travel to those countries to talk about what it means to be an expert on the employment of people with disabilities, they were awesome. They're great disability leaders. And here's the excitement I've been talking about. We are working out a show from Japan and South Korea where they will be able to tell all the English listeners with about this radio show. And that is so exciting.

 

Hey, Yoshiko, I haven't forgotten about you. Yoshiko, a special shout‑out to you. I hope you are having a great day. And you know she is the surviving partner, widow of Justin Dart, one of the greatest heroes. And we'll be talking about him frequently. Because, you know, this year is the 30th anniversary of the signing of the ADA. So, special shout‑out to Yoshiko. Thank you, my sponsors. Wow! We have Highmark, we have Wells Fargo, we have People's Gas, we have The Employment Options, all as sponsors of this radio show. Isn't that fabulous. And Highmark has been for three years. You know what that does? That helps me spread the news to other people with disabilities and people that are either family members or work with people with disabilities around the country and the world.

 

So, thank you to everyone. Thank you again to all of my listeners in other parts of the world. And, with that, I am very excited about our guest today. You know, when I heard about her, I thought, wow, that just, you know, that's something I talk about frequently and that covers so many things that I believe are so important to everyone else. And that would be what is happening to people with disabilities with Covid‑19, what is happening in healthcare from a nurse's perspective and/or someone that teaches nurses. And you know they're my heroes. They are. What would we do without them? And they're putting their life on the line. And my‑‑ I mean it when I say that. I so appreciate everything you do.

 

With that, I'd like to welcome Suzanne Meltzer to the show. How are you?

 

>> SUZANNE MELTZER: Very well thank you.

 

 

>> JOYCE BENDER: Good. How are you managing through this pandemic?

 

>> SUZANNE MELTZER: Keeping very busy. Very busy. And also following the regulations and the rules that you just talked about‑‑ social distancing, wearing a mask, washing hands, that kind of thing.

 

>> JOYCE BENDER: Yeah, I do not know why people would not do that.

 

>> SUZANNE MELTZER: I don't either.

 

>> JOYCE BENDER: That is amazing to me. Because, you know, I see this and I'll think, wow, it took just that long for people to forget all about this. But, hopefully, that's going to change.

 

So, Suzanne, how about for our listeners around the world, tell us a little bit about yourself and how you became involved in the world of nursing.

 

>> SUZANNE MELTZER: Okay. I have been a nurse for a very many years. And thinking back in terms of how I got involved, it is a little hard to, you know, put it in perspective because one of the things that I think about is what I have learned over the years. And that is that nursing offers unlimited opportunities. Many members of the public have a traditional and often very inaccurate view or vision of nurses and nursing. They often believe that nurses are individuals who work in hospitals and only hospitals and that their major job is to follow doctor's orders. The reality is that many nurses do work in hospitals, but many don't. And following doctor's orders is a very tiny part of what nurses do or are expected to do.

 

So, let me just spend a few minutes talking about unlimited opportunities. The opportunities for nurses range from direct patient care in hospitals. What we've certainly seen during the Covid pandemic. They may work in clinics, home care, schools, communities, pharmaceutical and other industries, research, education, the military and many other‑‑ and they have many other opportunities to advance in their careers and further their education through the doctoral degree which again is often surprising to a lot of people. They wonder why nurses need doctoral degrees. And that's because they need to, you know, be able to conduct robust research and so there is a growing number of nurses with doctoral degrees.

 

As you have said, nurses are essential. They're essential personnel. We've certainly seen that during the Covid pandemic. They're not only saving people's lives through their assessment and specialized care of individuals in and out of hospitals. We have seen them comforting patients at the end of their lives when no family members have been permitted to be with them and they have been trying to keep patients as comfortable as possible physically and emotionally, you know, when they are alone and perhaps at the end of their lives. And they've also worked closely with family members who have been distraught because they have not been permitted to be with their family members who are dying during this pandemic.

 

So that's part of the reasons that I've been involved in nursing. How I actually got involved at the very beginning, it's almost impossible for me to recall what made me think about nursing in the first place.

 

>> JOYCE BENDER: Well, I want to say this again. You know, first of all thank you for what you do. But in the past people may have underestimated the value of nursing and of a nurse. But I think they see now‑‑ and, you know, the sad part is, nurses have been doing this right along. But now nurses are living through a trauma that has not been dealt with before and putting their life on the line. And then as you said, being with sometimes end of life with the patient. And I don't know do you feel this is like‑‑ how can I say this‑‑ some kind of innate characteristic of a nurse, this loving, compassionate yet, you know, assertive, doing the right thing, I don't know, what do you think about this?

 

>> SUZANNE MELTZER: Well I think some people who have those characteristics go into nursing. I think nursing attracts people who have those characteristics. But I think people go into nursing without those characteristics. And if they're going to remain in nursing and be successful, they have to develop, you know, those characteristics that you've just identified. And that's one of the purposes of, you know, nursing education and the, you know, the courses and the clinical situations that students go through when they're in nursing education programs.

 

>> JOYCE BENDER: Now, I don't know if I was clear about the doctorate degree. Are you meaning like a PhD, is that what you meant?

 

>> SUZANNE MELTZER: Yes.

 

>> JOYCE BENDER: Well I bet a lot of people don't realize that today.

 

>> SUZANNE MELTZER: That is absolutely correct. You are absolutely right.

 

>> JOYCE BENDER: How far advanced that has become. Because you teach nurses, right?

 

>> SUZANNE MELTZER: That is correct. And I teach predominantly at the graduate level. I do some undergraduate teaching relative to disability. But the rest of my teaching is at the master’s and PhD level and it specifically focuses on research.

 

>> JOYCE BENDER: Wow. Well something that, you know, I'm a woman living with epilepsy, but I own this corporation across the United States and sell a software product. I do all of this but, you know, I tell people all the time since I do employment work, young people, that they should consider a career in nursing. Because to me it's such a wonderful opportunity. I know this is a strange question, but do you feel it will increase as a result of the pandemic or decrease?

 

>> SUZANNE MELTZER: That's a very interesting question. Because I think initially people you know who sort of thought about the situation were concerned that individuals would avoid nursing. But I think in reality it has increased the number of people who are considering nursing as a profession. I know that within the programs at Villanova, which is where I teach, we have a full complement of students coming into the program in the fall and that's the traditional program for people who have just completed their high school education. We also have a full complement of students in what we call our advanced or accelerated second degree program. That's for individuals who have already had another career and they want to change and they're changing to nursing. As I say, we have a full complement of individuals who have come into the program just right now. I mean, they're starting‑‑ some of them are starting at the end of July. So, we'll see what happens.

 

>> JOYCE BENDER: Yeah, we'll see what happens.

 

Well, I think, you know, it could go both ways. But you know how people want to go into a profession where they are saving lives, whether it be fireman/woman or police officer or EMT, whatever it would be, surely this is that type of opportunity. I think we've all learned that. And, man, the fortitude and courage of these nurses is unbelievable.

 

>> SUZANNE MELTZER: I would agree with you.

 

>> JOYCE BENDER: And how just overwhelmed they get because of their commitment to saving lives which is what I am referring to.

 

>> SUZANNE MELTZER: Yeah. And often have had to do that at least initially without appropriate supports and without appropriate protective equipment.

 

>> JOYCE BENDER: Yeah. What do you think about that? Do you think that that is still an issue nationally? Because as I'm sure you saw, Covid is going back up, you know, in Arizona, Arkansas, all these states.

 

>> SUZANNE MELTZER: A number of places, yes.

 

>> JOYCE BENDER: What do you think?

 

>> SUZANNE MELTZER: Well it's hard to know from state to state. You know, I think people are ‑‑ you know healthcare facilities, hospitals, are how well aware of what they need and hopefully, you know, they have made sure that they have the appropriate equipment if, you know, we see a startling increase in Covid. And how that will materialize we don't know at this point. But it clearly is going up. Or we're seeing these spikes in the incidents. So, I would hope that those institutions, you know, the hospitals and other facilities, are, you know, obtaining and, you know, reserving that equipment for the pandemic if we see an up surge in the numbers.

 

>> JOYCE BENDER: A question for you. You know, it's always‑‑ I always listen to the scientists, to the medical experts. In your opinion, do you feel that this Coronavirus will be with us for a while?

 

>> SUZANNE MELTZER: Based on what I've read, because I read the same people you do, I read their work. You know, people like Dr. Anthony Fauci. I put a lot of stake‑‑ I have a lot of faith in what he has to say. He is a scientist. He is a physician. He knows about infectious diseases. If he says we're likely to have, you know, resurgence I'm going to listen to him. So, I think it's going be around for a while. I think it's going be around until we have effective vaccine and it has to be availability for everyone. It can't just be for a select few. It has to be availability for everyone if we are going to emerge from the pandemic successfully. And when that will be, nobody knows.

 

>> JOYCE BENDER: Right. I've also noticed the places that opened early or, you know, I'm headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Even right here in Pittsburgh, sometimes when I go out, I see all these people, they are not social distancing and they are by each other and they are not caring about it and I'm thinking, what could possibly be the reason that they would not.

 

>> SUZANNE MELTZER: That's a very good question. A very good question.

 

>> JOYCE BENDER: I guess they're just not thinking.

 

Well I want to tell you what‑‑

 

>> SUZANNE MELTZER: I think that's true.

 

>> JOYCE BENDER: I want to tell you one of the reasons that I was so excited to have you on the show today is because of your expertise in health care and working with people with disabilities, especially what's happening to people with disabilities during this Covid crisis. And I actually know a lot of our listeners were very interested in this show. Remember if you are listening to the show and you are think, oh I wish I could share this with someone, you can. Just subscribe to my radio show by going to Spotify or Apple and you can go back and hear this show or share the podcast with anyone that you would like.

 

So, what's the answer to that question? The impact of Covid on people with disabilities and do you believe that there have been health disparities, and if so where?

 

>> SUZANNE MELTZER: Okay. That's a very important question.

 

Let me begin with a discussion of health disparities in general before I address the impact of Covid on individuals with disabilities.

 

In the best of circumstances, that is in the absence of Covid, individuals with disabilities have had a difficult time obtaining the kind of healthcare they need and deserve. Although the Americans With Disabilities Act was passed in 1990 as you said a few minutes ago, 30 years ago, there remain many changes that still are needed in order to ensure that healthcare for this population is availability, accessible, respectful and sensitive to their needs. Individuals should receive the care that meets their healthcare needs and healthcare providers need to recognize, I believe, the desire and the ability of individuals with disabilities to have a say in their own care. They do need knowledgeable healthcare providers who treat them with dignity and have their wishes respected.

 

Healthcare providers need to listen to them and that does not always happen. This is a long answer to your question but those with disabilities have experienced healthcare inequities even in the absence of Covid.

 

>> JOYCE BENDER: Would you mind giving us a couple of examples.

 

>> SUZANNE MELTZER: Sure.

 

>> JOYCE BENDER: Of what you mean.

 

>> SUZANNE MELTZER: Okay. Sure.

 

What many people‑‑ and I believe you mentioned this, I'm not sure if you did or not. But many people with disabilities, certainly not all, have some preexisting health conditions. And let me give you a specific example. Let's say there's somebody who has a spinal cord injury and the spinal cord injury is a high enough level that it gives the individual the ability to breathe without any difficulty in normal circumstances but because of a narrowed margin of safety or health because of the spinal cord injury, if they have a respiratory infection they may get into difficulty just because of the fact that their respiratory status affected by the spinal cord injury they have.

 

Now if that person has Covid on top of a somewhat compromised respiratory system, that person is going to get into difficult, more severe development and probably earlier than somebody who doesn't have spinal cord injury or some other physical disability. So that would be one example. Yeah, that's one example.

 

Does that answer your question?

 

>> JOYCE BENDER: Yes. If someone is listening to the show right now and they do have quadriplegia and they do get infected with Covid what should they be looking out for? What should they do differently than a person without a disability when they go to the doctor or the hospital I should say.

 

>> SUZANNE MELTZER: Well I think, you know, if somebody‑‑ let's say who has quadriplegia does develop symptoms of Covid, the Coronavirus, they do need to see a healthcare provider as soon as possible. Now, if they are discharged from the hospital and somebody says you don't have Covid, all the better. But because of the significance of the effects of Covid on somebody who has compromised respiratory stat us in the first place, they need to be seen as early as possible, you know, in the course of the infection. We do have, you know, different parameters now or different means of assessing respiratory status. You know, such as the oximeter that is used, let's say, in the emergency room to see if somebody is receiving enough oxygen. Some people actually have purchased those for use at home in order to monitor their oxygen status, their oxygenation status. And if that's possible, that's not a bad idea. It's not essential but it might be useful in some circumstances. But I think the important thing is if somebody has a significant disability that they get in to see a healthcare professional as soon as possible, as soon as they, you know, start to feel that they're developing any symptoms that could be Coronavirus or Covid.

 

>> JOYCE BENDER: And, you know, not that a doctor would not know but like say that you have access first to a nurse, it probably would be a good idea to say, hey, you know, I have lung space compromised from this could you get someone soon. Because if anyone would get someone soon it would be the nurse. So, you know, I always tell people say you go in and you're deaf, I tell people have a pen and pencil with you, a paper and pen, have an ID showing that you are deaf, have your smart phone. Because if you don't take action, I mean, imagine talking to people with masks on if you read lips. You know what I mean. So, if you are a person with a disability you have to be proactive. Not just assume that, you know, this person is going be able to‑‑ but I'm going tell you something. When I'm in the hospital, I like the nurses the most. I hope my doctors aren't listening. But I love the nurses because they are in there with me all the time and I seem to know more what's going on with them.

 

>> SUZANNE MELTZER: I cannot disagree with that.

 

>> JOYCE BENDER: Yeah. Well I know you are aware of these catastrophes that are occurring at nursing homes. What do you think needs to be done? Because even right here, you know, in New Brighton, it was terrible. It was so terrible it was on the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC. What do you think needs to be done?

 

>> SUZANNE MELTZER: Well there is no question that the effects of Covid in nursing homes has been tragic and incredibly distressing. One of the things that I think of, you know, when I think of nursing homes is, they're sort of large group homes, you know, where a group of people are living together. And many residents of nursing homes have disability due to advanced stage if not to other disabilities that they acquired, you know, during the course of their lives. The problem is that many nursing homes are understaffed and often the staff in nursing homes themselves are at increased risk for Covid because of their own health issues. The fact that many of them are from underserved areas in their own communities, they may lack the personal protective equipment that we were talking about a few minutes ago. They may use public transportation to get to their jobs in nursing homes. And that increases their exposure to many people who may be infected and may not be using social distancing as you've suggested a few minutes ago.

 

I think one of the things that has to happen is that there needs to be a major evaluation of what went wrong and what can be done to prevent the recurrence of what can only be described as devastation experienced by nursing homes. And this has affected the staff, the patients and the family members. Family members who put their parents perhaps or a parent in a nursing home in order to keep them safe and then to have this happen to them is absolutely devastating.

 

So, I think we do need, you know, a major task force, you know, within healthcare, outside of healthcare, to take a look at what happened and what can we do differently to make sure that this never happens again. Because it's been absolutely devastating.

 

>> JOYCE BENDER: Oh, I think you are giving such great advice. Because, you know, this is a time not only for reflection but for preparation for the future. Or who knows how long we're going to be, you know, as you said, Dr. Fauci, who knows how long we're going to be dealing with this. But I will tell you it's something that you said earlier about people with disabilities. Are there any other main issues that they should be aware of?

 

>> SUZANNE MELTZER: Well there is one thing that is changing or at least it has changed in a number of places. As I'm sure you are aware that, you know, when somebody was hospitalized one of the first steps that was taken was a rule was established in many hospitals saying nobody can come with the patient. The patient has to be alone. And the reason was to try to decrease the risk of transmission. And so, women going into labor were alone. You know, they couldn't have their partners with them. And people with disabilities could not have their support person with them. That's important in I think any circumstance where somebody has a disability but particularly if we're talking about somebody who has an intellectual or developmental disability in which somebody, you know, may not be able to communicate as well as somebody else or it may take them a little bit more time. And if you put somebody in these incredibly hectic, sometimes chaotic healthcare settings, you know, and somebody has significant intellectual disability, I mean, that can just be a horrendous nightmare for the individual, for the family, you know, for everybody involved.

 

Now the good news is that there has been a ground swell of activism, if you will, to ensure that that rule has been rescinded. And that is taking place in many institutions. The Americans With Disabilities Act makes it essential for hospitals to make accommodations. And the accommodation for somebody with a disability that is legally mandated is that they have the support person that they need in order to stay with them, you know, during a hospital stay. So, I think that's an important thing to think about, that there are positive things but one of the things that we need to do, you know, from the healthcare perspective as well as individuals with disabilities and their advocates is to make sure that we say, wait a minute, the Americans With Disabilities Act mandates accommodations. You need to make these accommodations, you know, for this person with a disability while they're hospitalized.

 

>> JOYCE BENDER: Yeah. And a lot of people don't realize that they have that. You know that they have that ability. And if you are listening make sure that you really do understand that.

 

It's so funny you said about advocates. Peri Jude Radecic could not be on today, but she is on normally every week as our advocacy matters as our anchor giving us an update on the news. That's something that the Pennsylvania disability rights‑‑ Disability Rights of Pennsylvania Advocacy have been working on. That's what they were working on. Making sure you could take a support person with you. Because imagine, as you said, intellectual disability‑‑ dementia ‑‑ you know there's so many things I can think of, how absolutely frightened you would be if you cannot have that person with you. But that is an accommodation. And that is why they were able to move forward working on that.

 

One thing I wanted to mention to you, many people with disabilities that I know believe that people in the healthcare industry are not properly trained to service their needs. What do I mean? An example. The person has a significant disability and they have to get them on a table. This becomes an ordeal. Or the person uses a wheelchair and they go to get a test. And they cannot accommodate them. What do you think we could do to help improve that situation?

 

>> SUZANNE MELTZER: There's so many things that need to be done. But, you know, the people who say that training of healthcare providers about disabilities inadequate are absolutely correct. The thing that's interesting is there have been multiple, multiple calls to action issued by federal and international agencies and organizations to improve the healthcare of people with disabilities. And these calls almost inevitably say that the major way to improve the healthcare of individuals with disabilities is to tackle the issue of lack of adequate education of healthcare professionals during their education and training. Medical schools, nursing schools and others. And that's what needs to be done. Along with that, one of the things that I'm working on with some colleagues is to try to do something relative to licensure of healthcare professionals. If licensure exams address the topic of disability, you know, in the test questions, that would make it inevitable that the topic of disability would be included in the curricula of medical schools, nursing schools, et cetera.

 

So one of the things that, as I say, you know, several organizations are out there, we're doing this, is trying to increase your knowledge and the knowledge of our students about disability so that when they go out in practice as future providers that they will be in a position to provide high quality, sensitive care to individuals with disabilities. The reality is that for many people who are out in practice today, that did not exist in their education and training. And that's what we need to change.

 

One of the things that I think is crucial is to have people with disabilities involved in that training, you know, the training of healthcare professionals. I have found people with disabilities to be my absolute best teachers. I don't mean teaching my students, I mean, teaching me. And I think they can teach all of us that isn't anybody else because they know what it's like to live on a day‑to‑day basis with a disability. They know what they're capable of. They know how well they can achieve. Healthcare providers in general don't know that. They sort of put everybody together in one box and, you know, if you excel or if you have problems on the lower end healthcare providers don't recognize either one of those because what they recognize is what's in that box that they know. And so we need to think out of that box and make sure that all students in the healthcare professions learn about disability, learn about what we can do, learn about the rights of people with disability and we need to include them in the teaching of healthcare professionals I believe.

 

>> JOYCE BENDER: Yes, I agree with you.

 

And speaking of that, Suzanne, you are an author‑‑ I just don't want to forget, so that I make sure our listeners hear this before we get to the end of this show. Tell us about your published work.

 

>> SUZANNE MELTZER: Okay. Well I have a number of publications, a number of them are research. You know, the results of research studies that I've done. Let me just say a couple of things about that. A lot of that work deals with disability and addresses many of the issues that we've been talking about such as lack of attention in the healthcare professions, education. I also have participated and led a number of studies that have to do with health issues of people with disabilities with a special focus on women related to pregnancy. A number of publications on that topic as well. But I'm also‑‑ I'm not currently but I was the author and editor of a major medical surgical nursing textbook which has been used for years in many schools of nursing across the US and internationally. Several editions ago we added the topic of disability into the textbook. And you might say wait a minute wasn't it there before. No, it wasn't. And it is there now. And one of the things that we have done is to incorporate it throughout the book. It's not just? One chapter, it's throughout the book, every place it would agree. Which is every place. Because one of the things we want to do is make the topic of disability a part of the everyday practice of nurses and other health professionals who use the book. Our book is one of the very few major nursing textbooks that includes such discussion. And, as I say, our goal has been to get the topic into the mainstream of nursing and nursing education as well as the other health professions as well.

 

>> JOYCE BENDER: And if someone is listening to this show and they are interested in going into nursing, how should‑‑ what advice do you have for them?

 

>> SUZANNE MELTZER: I would say they should do some homework in order to determine if they can ahead of time what it is they're interested in. You know what type of nursing. Although all nursing programs at this point prepare generalists. In other words, not specialists at the undergraduate level. There are many nursing programs in the country and all of them have their own, you know, focus. They all provide basically the same kind of information but come at it from a different perspective.

 

One of the things that I don't know if you are asking this or not, but I think an important issue is the inclusion of people with disabilities in the healthcare professions. In other words, the nurses with disabilities, physicians with disabilities, other people with disabilities. Because that might make a difference in terms of patient care. You know, if somebody who is a patient sees that their nurse has a disability and this is something with a disability, they may feel much more comfortable. Certainly, having peers with disabilities in a nursing education program or medical education program would open the eyes of, you know, other students in those programs. And one of the things the ADA said, the Americans with Disabilities said, is that people with disabilities have the right to equal access to education. And that means nursing education, medical education, and all the rest. You know, so I think if somebody has a disability and they're interested in the healthcare profession, they should pursue it. There may be some efforts on the part of some to stop them, but I think there are certainly a growing number of people in the health professions who say no there's no reason you can't do this. In fact, the professions would be better for it.

 

>> JOYCE BENDER: Yeah. And I agree with you that there isn't anyone that could relate and be as helpful as someone with a disability that went into nursing. What a great way to relate. So, once again, the book thaw published, what's it called?

 

>> SUZANNE MELTZER:  It's called the Textbook of Medical Surgical Nursing.

 

>> JOYCE BENDER: And for someone that is in nursing and wants to go further, how would they get that book?

 

>> SUZANNE MELTZER: I think they could actually get it through Amazon. If somebody's already in nursing and if they have an interest in, you know, going on for advanced practice education, you know, again there are many schools of nursing that do have a nurse practitioner program and other programs that prepare people at an advanced level. Not many of them at this point have programs that focus on disability. Again, I believe that that is a generalist perspective. I mean, there are people who are specialists in disability, but I also believe that disability needs to be part of every healthcare provider's knowledge base. You know, it can't just be specialists. And that's one of the perspectives that I think we need to change, is that people think it's only for specialists. They might say something like well I'm never going to see people with disability in my practice. Well yeah, they are. In fact, they probably already have. But they may not be aware of it because they're not attune to the issues. And if they are unaware of it, that means to me they're probably not considering the person's disability, you know, as they help to plan care for that person. So, I think it's essential, you know, that we have greater understanding across all healthcare professions.

 

>> JOYCE BENDER: Yes. Now you have a program at Villanova?

 

>> SUZANNE MELTZER: Yes. We have a standardized patients with disabilities program. It's not a, you know, a total education program but it's really part of what we‑‑ what we have are standardized patients who are people with disabilities, actual disabilities, who are part of our teaching strategy, if you will. And so, our students interact with the standardized patients with disabilities in the simulation lab. For some students this is the first time they have ever interacted with somebody with a disability. For others, it's not the first time. It's interesting because if we're talking about a brand‑new student, you know, somebody who is maybe 19 years old they may be very reluctant to talk about the disability with the person. And I've heard this a number of times. Their feeling is they don't want to upset the person about talking about the disability. And my response to those students is you know what, they know they have a disability. They should be upset if you don't talk to them about the disability. Because if you don't talk to them about the disability, that means that you are not considering the fact that they have a disability in your care. You know, when you are providing care, when you are planning, you know, next steps for the individual, if you are not thinking about, well this person has a disability, are there any modifications we need to make to ensure that this person can get the care that he or she needs. If we're not thinking that way, we're not thinking about the fact that the person has a disability, then we're ignoring, you know, a major piece of healthcare that needs to be addressed.

 

>> JOYCE BENDER: Right. Because that in fact could make the person feel as if you don't want to deal with my disability. You know, you feel you don't want to deal with it. You know, it's negative. Absolutely the person could feel like that.

 

>> SUZANNE MELTZER: Yes, exactly. Exactly.

 

>> JOYCE BENDER: Well, Suzanne, it's obvious that you have accomplished many things throughout your life. What would you consider your greatest accomplishment?

 

>> SUZANNE MELTZER: I think it has to be the fact that I have increased the awareness of the importance of disability in nursing and nursing education and beyond that. I was actually, you know, when I saw the title of your show which is Disability Matters, right? That's the name of the show.

 

>> JOYCE BENDER: Yes.

 

>> SUZANNE MELTZER: One of the things that I have done, and I still do when I give presentations at meetings, to faculty, wherever they are, I have a title slide for my presentation which is the official title. And I say but this is the real title. And my next slide is, why Disability Matters. And the reason for that is because there are some people who don't think it matters because they have no idea about the fact that, you know, the population of people with disabilities is the largest minority group in the country. That makes it matter. There are many other things that make it matter, but that also makes it matter.

 

So, the fact that I have been able to, you know, through a number of different avenues, have been able to increase the awareness about the importance of disability I think has been my ‑‑ that's what I've been destined to do. That work has become my life's work. That job is not yet done. But I think, you know, if there is somebody now who thinks “oh yeah I should think about that”, then I would say mission accomplished. And so, for me that's, you know, one of the most important things that I have accomplished.

 

>> JOYCE BENDER: Well that's certainly rewarding. And I'm sure, just like me when I find someone employment or when they purchase our eLearning product, every single time it is so rewarding.

 

>> SUZANNE MELTZER: Yeah. And as I say some of my best teachers have been people with disabilities. I always learn from them. I learn more from them than they do from me. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

 

>> JOYCE BENDER: That is so awesome you feel like that. And I just want to thank you for everything you are doing. I want to thank you for being a nurse, for being those champions that put yourself on the line. I want to thank you for being a teacher and encouraging others to go into this field. And I want to thank you for being a national leader talking about people with disabilities going into this field and how important that is. I really commend you for all of that.

 

>> SUZANNE MELTZER: Thank you, Joyce. It's been my pleasure.

 

>> JOYCE BENDER: Do you have any parting words you'd like to leave with our listeners?

 

>> SUZANNE MELTZER: Disability Matters. I think that's what I would leave with.

 

>> JOYCE BENDER: Well that's very profound and true.

 

>> SUZANNE MELTZER: And it matters to all of us.

 

>> JOYCE BENDER: Yeah. I always tell people the ADA is not just for people with disabilities, it's for you. It's protecting you.

 

Well I want to just say again to all my listeners, if you heard this show and you are thinking, oh I wish this other person could hear it or this young person that is thinking of going into nursing, whatever the situation is, go to Apple or Spotify and you can subscribe to my radio show and you can share this podcast with others. Just as I hope you do, Suzanne, at Villanova so more people can hear about the great work that you are doing.

 

And, with that, we end every show with a quote by someone that has impacted the lives of so many people. And so, it has to be today Florence Nightingale who said... let us never consider ourselves finished nurses. We must be learning all of our lives she said.

 

This is Joyce Bender, America's voice, where Disability Matters at VoiceAmerica.com. Stay tuned, folks, because in July we'll be celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

 

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This text, document, or file is based on live transcription. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART), captioning, and/or live transcription are provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. This text, document or file is not to be distributed or used in any way that may violate copyright law.

 

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