University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

Problematizing Medical Students with Disabilities: A Critical Policy Analysis

Shrewsbury, Duncan, Mogensen, L. and Hu, W. (2018) Problematizing Medical Students with Disabilities: A Critical Policy Analysis. MedEdPublish, 7 (1). p. 45. ISSN 2312–7996

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Background: Ensuring diversity, and that the medical profession is representative of the varied communities it serves is a worldwide equity concern. The widening participation movement in higher education aims to attract more students from non-traditional backgrounds into university. Yet, there is persistent under-representation of students with disabilities in medical education, and subsequently, the profession. The inclusion of these students is greatly influenced by the policies which regulate and accredit medical schools, which demand that educators consider students with disabilities as future doctors. While these policies may aim to promote inclusion, they may also have unintended consequences. In this paper we critically analyse key policies in undergraduate medical education to examine how disability in medical students is represented and problematized, and the educational implications of such representations.

Method: Key policies concerning medical school accreditation and educational standards from the General Medical Council (UK), Australian Medical Council (Australia) were selected for analysis. Carol Bacchi’s ‘What’s the Problem Represented to Be?’ six critical questions approach was applied to conduct a critical interpretive analysis of how disability is problematized in these policies.

Findings: Our analysis revealed a distinctive construction of disability in medicine, supported by themes of containment of disability, disability and competence, and disability and risk. Disability is framed as risk and potential educational burden for schools which must adapt practices to meet legal requirements. Risk is conceptualised as a quality of individuals, rather than being constructed through interactions between persons and environments. The ways in which disability is problematized relates to presuppositions which have the effect of restricting access for learners with disabilities.

Conclusions: The policies which regulate medical education can inadvertently limit inclusion of students with disabilities by being silent on the value of a diverse medical workforce. Bacchi’s six critical questions are an accessible and practical method for identifying the norms and assumptions which may impede change in educational policy and practice. By making visible these hidden suppositions and their consequences for learners, their impact may be ameliorated, and progress made.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information:

The full-text of the online published article can be accessed via the official URL.

Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: disability, policy analysis, accreditation, widening participation, competence
Divisions: College of Health, Life and Environmental Sciences > School of Allied Health and Community
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Copyright Info: Open Access journal
Depositing User: Duncan Shrewsbury
Date Deposited: 20 Aug 2019 18:37
Last Modified: 17 Jun 2020 17:32

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