Disability is a strength
02 December, 2021
I am Dr Onikepe Ijete, a Specialty Doctor in Forensic Psychiatry. I have a chronic inflammatory and progressive illness which has caused significant damage to the joints in my body causing disability. I am a wheelchair user. My disability impairs my ability to carry out simple activities of day-to-day living without help from another person.
As a young doctor, I had dreams and aspirations and I was determined to achieve these regardless of my disability. I fought against stereotypes and preconceived ideas about what I could, or could not do and what I should, or should not achieve.
Despite having to overcome barriers on a daily basis, my achievements include working full time as a Specialty Doctor in Forensic Psychiatry, being part of an award-winning team and being a valued member of the team.
In celebration of the NHS at 70, I was nominated for the 2018 Nigerian Healthcare Professionals UK Excellence Award. This was in recognition of my achievements and outstanding professional contributions to the NHS over the years. Outside of work, I am a public speaker and have spoken at various medical conferences.
As a single parent, I have raised a daughter, Dr Elohor Ijete, who despite being my carer since she was 10 years old obtained a first-class honours degree in Biochemistry and is now a foundation year 2 doctor. Together, we run a mentoring group called Inception to support school children and graduates interested in medicine, medical students, and doctors from a Black, Asian and minority ethnic background on their medical journey.
In 2019, the medical students were invited to 10 Downing Street for a round table discussion with a special adviser to the UK Prime Minister, Theresa May. They discussed ways to increase the number of Black, Asian, and minority ethnic doctors working in the NHS to help address health inequalities.
People with disabilities are often perceived as a burden but having a disability IS a strength. I am a doctor and I am also a patient. On a typical day, I review patients’ mental states, refer them for investigations and answer any questions or concerns they may have about their care.
My experience of being on the receiving end of variable bedside manner gives me insight and empathy which I incorporate into my practice. I adapted very quickly to lockdown and came into work everyday as pre-COVID, my life was in lockdown due to a lack of step-free access in a lot of establishments.
The provision of reasonable adjustments at work has enabled me to remain in employment.
What I would like to see for a more inclusive profession, where all can achieve their potential, is that the Royal College of Psychiatrists lend its weight to the issue of disabled employees being supported with the provision of reasonable adjustments in a timely manner. This will reduce stress, anxiety and uncertainty for the disabled employee.
These days, advances in technology provide simple yet effective solutions that are inexpensive. Being able to access meetings via Microsoft Teams and working from home provides opportunities for flexible working, allowing greater productivity. Greater diversity in the workforce and inclusion must be organised because it won’t happen by chance.
You can also watch a video interview with Dr Onikepe Ijete on our YouTube channel.