Exploring accommodations along the education to employment pathway for deaf and hard of hearing healthcare professionals

BMC Med Educ. 2022 May 6;22(1):345. doi: 10.1186/s12909-022-03403-w.


Background: Deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) people are an underserved population and underrepresented among healthcare professionals. A major barrier to success for DHH healthcare professionals is obtaining effective accommodations during education and employment. Our objective: describe DHH individuals' experiences with accommodations in healthcare education.

Methods: We used an online survey and multipronged snowball sampling to recruit participants who identify as DHH and who had applied to a U.S. health professional school (regardless of acceptance status). One hundred forty-eight individuals representing multiple professions responded; 51 had completed their training. Over 80% had been accepted to, were currently enrolled, or had completed health professions schools or residency programs, and/or were employed. The survey included questions addressing experiences applying to health professions programs and employment; satisfaction with accommodations in school and training; having worked with a disability resource professional (DRP); and depression screening.

Results: Use and type of accommodation varied widely. While in school, respondents reported spending a mean of 2.1 h weekly managing their accommodations. Only 50% were highly satisfied with the accommodations provided by their programs. Use of disability resource providers (DRPs) for accommodations was highest during school (56%) and less frequent during post-graduate training (20%) and employment (14%). Respondents who transitioned directly from school to employment (versus via additional training) were more satisfied with their accommodations during school and were more likely to find employment (p = 0.02). Seventeen respondents screened positive for risk of depression; a positive screen was statistically associated with lower school accommodation satisfaction.

Conclusions: DHH people study and practice across many health professions. While respondents were mostly successful in entering health professions programs, accommodation experiences and satisfaction varied. Satisfaction with accommodations was related to successful employment and wellness. Low satisfaction was associated with higher likelihood of depression symptoms. To increase representation in the workforce, healthcare professional schools, training programs, and employers should enhance support for the learning and working climates for people with disabilities.

Keywords: Deafness; Disability; Diversity; Medical education.

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Disabled Persons*
  • Educational Status
  • Employment
  • Humans
  • Persons With Hearing Impairments*