Disabled people are underrepresented within healthcare professions, although their participation has potential benefits for them personally, and for broader society. Disabled peoples’ participation in healthcare professions is limited by assumptions about disability. Little research explores how healthcare professions can be organized to support disabled peoples’ employment. Within a critical realist paradigm influenced by grounded theory, this study used interviews to explore the experiences of 56 disabled healthcare clinicians and students, and advance a conceptual taxonomy of disability experience within healthcare professions. Participants describe their experiences of disability in the healthcare professional context in terms of characteristics and dimensions of disability—how characteristics interact with factors within healthcare training and practice environments. We profile two particularly salient dimensions of the disability experience: visibility and onset of disability. These are developed to describe complexity and specificity of the experiences of individuals negotiating the healthcare context. Among participants there is extensive heterogeneity related to the experience of disability in healthcare professional contexts. Despite some having similar disability characteristics, no two individuals experience the same combination of characteristics and dimensions of disability. Given the complexity of experiences for disabled healthcare professionals/students, a taxonomy for conceptualizing this experience is presented. Readers are encouraged to consider the taxonomy through which they might conceptualize individual, embodied, and socially embedded experiences of disabled healthcare professionals and students. Stakeholders involved in healthcare professions and education should consider this shift in perspective, with a view to increasing access of disabled people to health professional practice.
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To protect participant identities, names have been changed, and details are compilations of various individuals.
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Bulk, L.Y., Tikhonova, J., Gagnon, J.M. et al. Disabled healthcare professionals’ diverse, embodied, and socially embedded experiences. Adv in Health Sci Educ 25, 111–129 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10459-019-09912-6