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Clinical experiences of students with dyslexia


  • David Morris MSc RGN RCNT RNT DIPN CertEd,

  • Patricia Turnbull BN MSc RGN RNT PGCE

David Morris,
Institute of Health and Social Care,
Anglia Ruskin University,
202 North Building,
Park Road,
Essex CM1 1LL,


Aim.  This paper reports a study exploring the clinical experiences of student nurses with dyslexia and its potential influence on their practice.

Background.  Widened access to university education has meant an increase in the number of students with dyslexia. A limited number of studies have explored the academic experiences of dyslexic student nurses. However, nursing students in the United Kingdom spend 50% of their programme in practice settings, and there are no studies detailing their clinical experiences.

Method.  This qualitative exploratory study involved tape-recorded interviews with a convenience sample of 18 nursing students with a formal dyslexia diagnosis. Data were collected in 2003–2004 and were analysed using thematic analysis.

Findings.  Participants described a number of personalized approaches to managing their difficulties in practice. Whilst many of these may be useful to non-dyslexic students, descriptions of, for example, avoiding answering the telephone, were inappropriate. Some participants contended with discrimination and ridicule, often choosing not to disclose their disability. Less acute clinical environments appeared to provide more satisfying working experience, and this factor may be influential in shaping future career options. Participants valued more time and an undisturbed place to complete clinical documentation. Heightened self-awareness promoted patient safety as the major concern for study participants. Positive aspects of dyslexia were never raised or acknowledged by participants.

Conclusion.  The clinical setting provides a challenging environment for nursing students with dyslexia, who find personalized ways to manage their disability. A dyslexia diagnosis continues to carry a stigma that may result in non-disclosure, with implications for the level of support available. Greater awareness of the practice-specific needs of such students is required to ensure appropriate support and public safety.