Need feedback: Medicalization..raising awareness and potential study?

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    I have been compelled by the narratives and stories I read in this forum esp about the medicalization of nurses and nursing students with disabilities, and the marginalization of those nurses with bipolar and other mental health diagnoses who disclose their conditions. From the some of the posts I've read over the years, it appears there needs to be more awareness generated regarding the effects of medicalization of nurses with disability in the workplace and classroom.
    Q: What are your thoughts?
    Q: Would there be a benefit for my conducting a study that raises awareness of medicalization in this field as well as the voices (narratives) of those who unecessarily experience marginalization and discrimination (e.g. disclosure, monitoring, etc)?

    About me....I am a graduate student (PhD) in technical communication focusing on medical rhetoric and communication. I have ADHD and have worked over 25 years in the allied health field before returning to school, and I can attest to my own struggles with ADHD while working in the health industry. This past summer, I took a disability studies graduate course where I wrote a preliminary paper analyzing the effects of how discussion threads like this one provide both support and knowledge-based information for nurses and nursing students with disabilities. However, through my analysis I became increasingly interested in the stories I read and need for awareness about some of the barriers you all are facing in the nursing industry.I haven't fully decided if this would be a good direction to expand on my summer research, and would really like some feedback from some of the participants in this forum who experience the effects of medicalization.

    I would love to hear your thoughts, concerns, and suggestions....and if this is something you might be interested in contributing to/participating in either through interviews and/or surveys.
    VivaLasViejas and lindarn like this.
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    I would definitely be interested in participating, should you decide to continue with your research on this topic. Personally, I'm all for anything that opens a dialogue and gets people to thinking. The fact that nurses in many states have to choose between lying about their mental illness on license applications and being placed in a long-term monitoring program for addicts/alcoholics, is proof that we are regarded as "guilty" before we ever make a med error or forget a piece of documentation. (And what nurse doesn't?)

    It's just as bad when a nurse (like me) has been licensed for many years and picks up a psychiatric diagnosis between renewals. You probably had this problem for a long time before a doctor said "You have _____", and you're the same person you were before you got the label---now all of a sudden you're persona non grata and the BON wants to punish you for being mentally ill. Like you actually CHOOSE to get sick with something like bipolar or major depression.

    Tell me, does a nurse with heart disease or diabetes or cancer have to pee in a cup in front of a stranger every week and call in to an automated voice messaging system every day, including Sundays? The nurse who is honest about reporting her/his mental illness does. Not only that, her/his board orders are often a matter of public record (HIPAA anyone??) and can be found by any member of the public with just a few mouse clicks. Great way to "help" nurses with psychiatric problems.....

    OK, climbing down off my soapbox now. The point is, those of us who are affected by one or more of the so-called serious mental illnesses are marginalized and discriminated against, even though we supposedly have laws protecting us (don't even get me started on the Americans with Disabilities Act---the emperor has no clothes). And anything that calls public attention to these injustices would likely be of considerable benefit, maybe not for awhile but in the future.
    Not_A_Hat_Person likes this.
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    I am interested, but I'd like more explanation of what you mean by "medicalization." Thanks.
    LaRN and VivaLasViejas like this.
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    Quote from VivaLasViejas
    I would definitely be interested in participating, should you decide to continue with your research on this topic. Personally, I'm all for anything that opens a dialogue and gets people to thinking. The fact that nurses in many states have to choose between lying about their mental illness on license applications and being placed in a long-term monitoring program for addicts/alcoholics, is proof that we are regarded as "guilty" before we ever make a med error or forget a piece of documentation. (And what nurse doesn't?) It's just as bad when a nurse (like me) has been licensed for many years and picks up a psychiatric diagnosis between renewals. You probably had this problem for a long time before a doctor said "You have _____", and you're the same person you were before you got the label---now all of a sudden you're persona non grata and the BON wants to punish you for being mentally ill. Like you actually CHOOSE to get sick with something like bipolar or major depression. Tell me, does a nurse with heart disease or diabetes or cancer have to pee in a cup in front of a stranger every week and call in to an automated voice messaging system every day, including Sundays? The nurse who is honest about reporting her/his mental illness does. Not only that, her/his board orders are often a matter of public record (HIPAA anyone??) and can be found by any member of the public with just a few mouse clicks. Great way to "help" nurses with psychiatric problems..... OK, climbing down off my soapbox now. The point is, those of us who are affected by one or more of the so-called serious mental illnesses are marginalized and discriminated against, even though we supposedly have laws protecting us (don't even get me started on the Americans with Disabilities Act---the emperor has no clothes). And anything that calls public attention to these injustices would likely be of considerable benefit, maybe not for awhile but in the future.
    Are you saying that if you have a diagnosis of depression you have to be placed in a monitoring program and submit urine samples?
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    Quote from Laurie52
    Are you saying that if you have a diagnosis of depression you have to be placed in a monitoring program and submit urine samples?
    Technically, anyone with a mental disorder has to notify the BON of that fact. It's up to the Board to decide if the licensee needs to be in the monitoring program. TBH, I don't think they do that with nurses who have depression unless they've been hospitalized for it, because there wouldn't be anyone left to take care of the patients! It's mainly those with bipolar, schizophrenia, borderline PD and so on who are more apt to be placed in such programs.
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    Wow, I had no idea those with a diagnosis had to inform the BON!? Wow is all I can say. I cannot imagine dealing with a mental health condition and the BON and the discrimination with everybody knowing.
    msbprn, IowaKaren, and VivaLasViejas like this.
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    It's different in each state. Some don't even ask, while others want to know if you've been treated for ANY kind of mental illness in the past five years.

    In my state, the wording of the question is ambiguous enough that if you squeeze around it well enough, you can sort of dodge it. It reads "Do you have any physical or mental condition which impairs, or may impair your ability to practice nursing safely?" Well, if you're stable and working, it doesn't impair you. But how can you quantify the second part of that question? Do you have a crystal ball that can predict whether or not you'll ever be impaired?

    Me neither. I may end up going to Hell for it, but I said "No". I've done nothing to deserve the kind of humiliation these so-called "services" subject nurses to, and I'd rather give up my license than submit to it. But, that's just me.
    IowaKaren likes this.
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    Great question, but also complicated. Medicalizing disability has it's positive and negative connotations in relationship to social constructs. It's basic definition is not really negative, it just means to 1. view or treat as a medical concern, problem, or disorder those who seek to dispose of social problems by medicalizing them; 2. to view or treat as a medical concern, problem, or disorder <those who seek to dispose of social problems by medicalizing them—Liam Hudson><the Western model of medicalized birth…in order to reduce potential risk—Judith Fitzpatrick> (Webster).
    However, I am still exploring how this applies to disability in particular nurses and nursing students with (who disclose) bipolar and mental health. I think an example woud be the monitoring program. From what I've read in this forum, nurses with bipolar for example are medicalized by the BON as "addicts" because they are required by the BON to be placed in a treatment program designed specifically for drug and alcohol addiction. ****Viva gives a better description below about how nurses with bipolar are marginalized by being subjected to monitoring***** So, if I apply this definition correctly... basically the BON is medicalizing disability in a negative way to avoid a potential risk. It is identifying (medicalizing) bipolar as a disease/disorder while assigning it a negative social contruct. I really could not find any justification academically or otherwise as to why nurses who disclose bipolar are placed in this program. Anyway, that is one way of looking at it. The following are more "formal" and historical and theorizing definitions...you can also Google the general term "medicalization." I think disclosure fits in here also, which also perpetuates perceptions of disease, marginalization, and stigma.

    Here are some more complicated definitions of "medicalization" if that helps. Note the ones in asterisks, I think they might apply here:

    >Medicalizing disability is defined as a disability in the medical model is defined as bodily malfunction, while the social model converts it from an individual physical problem to a social problem.


    >Medicalization is a process whereby medical and health precepts have been embodied in individuals who assume this responsibility for themselves...
    ....a process by which nonmedical problems become defined and treated as medical problems, usually in terms of illnesses or disorders.
    ...a medical perspective played in the analysis of society and its ills
    ...biomedical outlook on the management of populations
    ...a medical perspective over individual rights


    ...the modern welfare state governs the bodies of people with sovereign rights. They also fail to appreciate there is an inverse relationship between the progress of the medicalization in the twentieth century and individual liberty—that a doctrine of the healthy citizen has displaced, in some degree, a regime of the citizen of rights.


    *****....although doctors are always on the lookout for personal and professional reasons to medicalize a condition the treatment of which will increase their power or income, in the modern state they often as not act as experts in conflict resolution between private individuals and insurors or between individuals and state entities...medical opinion may have a bearing on matters ranging
    from the ability to hold down a job, be a good parent, receive injury compensation, and a
    host of other typical conflicts in the modern welfare state.


    ****...state’s interventions in particular areas of life are brought under critical scrutiny in terms of
    their legitimacy (do they encroach on the necessary freedoms of individuals?) and the competence
    and cost-effectiveness of its methods (can the objectives be achieved without state
    intervention: that is by members of society themselves?)”


    In the twentieth century where the juridical institutions or procedures have
    been liquidated or crippled, the doctrine of the healthy body has been transformed into a
    justification for hygienic elimination of the weak and unfit, the medical sequestering of political
    and civil deviants, and a thoroughgoing control of reproduction and women’s bodies
    (Kater, 1989; Proctor, 1988; Weindling, 1989).
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    Thanks Viva. I'll keep everyone and you posted if I move forward with the study. I need to go over the logistics with my advisor about creating a small study. However, I'm working with her on expanding this analysis/study while taking a medical rhetoric course this semester. We just finished a book by Judy Segal where the author touches on medicalization and medicalizing illness, not specifically mental health though. I'd also still like to hear from some other participants to get their thoughts.
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    Quote from VivaLasViejas
    It's different in each state. Some don't even ask, while others want to know if you've been treated for ANY kind of mental illness in the past five years. In my state, the wording of the question is ambiguous enough that if you squeeze around it well enough, you can sort of dodge it. It reads "Do you have any physical or mental condition which impairs, or may impair your ability to practice nursing safely?" Well, if you're stable and working, it doesn't impair you. But how can you quantify the second part of that question? Do you have a crystal ball that can predict whether or not you'll ever be impaired? Me neither. I may end up going to Hell for it, but I said "No". I've done nothing to deserve the kind of humiliation these so-called "services" subject nurses to, and I'd rather give up my license than submit to it. But, that's just me.
    This just doesn't seem putative or discriminatory to me. They are asking about either mental or physical illnesses. They are not asking you to foretell the future, they are asking if at this time, are there any issues. Why is this not reasonable? I was talking to an anesthiologist recently and he said that in our state that he had to undergo mandatory drug testing simply because the incidence of abuse is so high in this speciality. Any profession that holds the public trust is held to higher standards. If I had to undergo drug testing I wouldn't care. Inconvenient perhaps but seriously just a blip on my radar.

    I realize that we have both had different life experiences, I'm not trying to be critical but just offering a different view.


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