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Workshops - Job Search Strategies: Competing in the Job Market

Being Your Own Self Advocate, a Key to Success in the Field of Healthcare

Sarah Stonier

Watch streaming video of Sarah Stonier

Sarah is a third-year University of New Brunswick nursing student. She was diagnosed with Dysgraphia when she was eight. Since then, she has struggled to not only cope with this disability, but to exceed all expectations. Sarah has done everything people told her she couldn’t do. Upon graduating from high school, with honors in 2005, she was accepted into the UNB nursing program. Sarah works hard to advocate for herself, and for others with disabilities. She looks forward to graduating in 2010 and becoming an RN, giving her an opportunity to do work with children who have a variety of disabilities.


This presentation will focus on how understanding your disability, standing up for your rights as a person, and being able to advocate for yourself can help open doors into the field of healthcare.

Issues to be addressed include self-advocacy, recognizing your strengths and weaknesses, knowing how and when to ask for help, and knowing how to adapt the healthcare environment to fit your needs.



Sarah Stonier, a third year nursing student from the University of New Brunswick, shared with participants her success story in the health care field. She said the message she wanted to convey was to break away from taboos and “learn how to help yourself by being your own advocate.”

Stonier gave a brief overview of her learning disability and how it has affected her academic career. Her personal motto, she said, is “Can’t Means Won’t.” Since she has a hidden disability, Stonier said it has been crucial for her to be able to explain her disability clearly to her teachers and colleagues. “In the real world, there isn’t always someone there to help you out,” she said. “Understanding your disability is the key to self-advocacy.”

Stonier told participants to learn about their disability and be able to explain it to others. She encouraged them to identify their strengths and weaknesses in order to play up the former and adapt to the latter. She told them to be proud of what they had accomplished despite their disability.

She suggested participants look at the accommodations they have made in their own environment, to help identify what they would need from an employer. She gave participants several examples of how she has adapted her work environment to play to her strengths. She said that her learning disability made it difficult for her to chart by hand or work in an operating room, for example. She sidestepped those weaknesses by choosing a work environment where charting is done by computer, and by working where she feels comfortable. “It doesn’t mean I’m a bad nurse; it’s just that I’ve adapted my work around my disability,” she said.

Stonier said it is important for participants to be clear on what their limitations are and to offer suggestions to their employer as to how to work around these limitations. That way, she said, the employer and the employee both know what the other needs. She said that at the beginning of her nursing studies she did not disclose her disability, “and it initially worked against me.” Too many accommodations, just like insufficient accommodations, can lead to frustration.

Asking for help can be difficult, said Stonier, but it is essential in order to succeed. She suggested that when asking for help, participants be polite, use “I” statements, ask for help after having tried at least once or when under a tight deadline, and find alternate ways to perform a task.

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