Date of Award


Document Type


First Advisor

Dr. Louann Zinsmeister, PhD, RN, CNE


Registered nurses with disabilities are a minority group within the profession of nursing; though the exact number of nurses with disabilities is unknown, it is projected to be about 1 in 5, and is estimated to increase as the nursing population ages. As more nurses develop physical disabilities, related to age or the demanding nature of nursing work, health care organizations should develop methods to recruit and retain these nurses within the profession. The recruitment and retention of registered nurses with disabilities is mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act and the America Nurses Association Code of Ethics, and has a direct impact on combating the nursing staffing crisis. Furthermore, recruitment and retention of these experienced nurses keeps knowledge, and expertise at the bedside and within the profession of nursing. However, nursing has historically viewed disability through the lens of the medical model, a perspective that negates the impact of the environment and focuses on the inabilities and limitations of the individual. This has resulted in a judgmental and exclusive disability culture within nursing that fails to recognize and support contributions of nurses with disabilities to the profession. This capstone project analyzed the literature and concluded that the medical model of disability enhances the barriers to employment for nurses with disabilities, while the social model minimizes these barriers. While further quantitative research is needed, a transition to the social model of disability, which focuses on adaptive and inclusive environments, would likely positively impact the recruitment and retention of these nurses.