A panel of judges convened by AJN, The American Journal of Nursing, has selected "Delivering Quality Healthcare for People with Disability" (Sigma) by Professor Suzanne C. Smeltzer, EdD, RN, ANEF, FAAN for AJN’s Book of the Year Awards 2021 in the History and Public Policy category. The announcement was made in the journal’s January 2022 issue. The book is yet another way she is advocating for the largest minority group in the country, the 61 million Americans with disability. Globally, there are 1 billion people with disability.
Dr. Smeltzer, a passionate and internationally known advocate for persons with disability and for the education of health care providers to provide them with quality care, had been thinking about writing a book like this for a number of years. This topic is one that had been missing in nursing and health care education and, often, gaps remain despite the vocal work of Dr. Smeltzer.
She notes, “My goal with the book was to inform readers (largely, but not exclusively nursing faculty) about the importance of the topic and the need to introduce the topic of disability in nursing education and to provide them with not only the information they need to know to move the topic into nursing curricula but also resources that would enable them to address the topic appropriately in nursing education.” While its focus is nursing, the book is intended to be useful to other disciplines as well.
In addition to writing the award-winning book, Dr. Smeltzer also crafted a disability fact sheet for health care providers which is available online.
Dr. Smeltzer has been doing research in the area for decades. “Our previous studies and that of others revealed that people in general and healthcare providers more specifically, including nurses and nursing faculty, have no idea about the size of the population of people with disability. And they don't think it is very important (that is a direct quote from one of our study participants) despite the fact that disability is much more common than the other disorders that we spend a lot of time talking about in our education programs,” she explains. She reminds audiences large and small that we will all have a disability at some point in our lives.
For the last 30 years, Dr. Smeltzer has focused not only her research, but also education and service-related endeavors, to addressing the health-related needs of people with disabilities and the education of health professionals to better care for people with disabilities—a vulnerable population that is often underserved and whose needs are frequently ignored. She has brought attention to the need for the nursing profession and nursing faculty to prepare undergraduate and nurse practitioner students to provide high quality and sensitive care to people with disability. She was instrumental in securing a grant from the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) to develop educational materials for nurse practitioner programs. These materials, Caring for People with Disabilities: The Nurse Practitioner Toolkit, were distributed to graduate nurse practitioner programs nationwide and have been widely used nationally.
Dr. Smeltzer led a team of College of Nursing faculty to obtain support from the National League for Nursing (NLN) to develop the Advancing Care Excellence.Disability (ACE.D) program to extend the Advancing Care Excellence series to include people with disabilities. ACE.D is available free and online through the NLN website to any nursing faculty member interested in following Villanova’s example in addressing the health issues and nursing care needs of this vulnerable population.