The Exceptional Nurse Book Highlights Nurses with Disabilities and Visual Impairment

Cover of the book, The Exceptional Nurse: Tales from the trenches of truly resilient nurses working with disabilities

Exceptional nurses go out of their way to provide excellent care for their patients no matter the personal hurdles they must overcome. Whether that hurdle is a physical or mental disability, these nurses have found ways to conquer the odds and continue to provide the best care possible to those in need.

In Donna Carol Maheady’s new book, The Exceptional Nurse: Tales from the trenches of truly resilient nurses working with disabilities, readers learn of nurses who overcame learning disabilities, amputation, mental illness, and vision loss. In all of these stories, the nurses’ resilience helped them pull through adverse situations, making them stronger and more effective nurses.

As founder of*, Donna Maheady is an advocate for nurses and nursing students with disabilities. She has experience as a pediatric nurse practitioner and as a nursing care consultant. She has taught nursing for over 20 years and worked with nursing students with a wide range of disabilities. She is currently an adjunct assistant professor in the College of Nursing at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida.

In fact, several APH CareerConnect mentors have helped and rightly fit into place with Maheady’s organization,, including our very own Detra Bannister!

Detra and her dog guide, Yulea, working

Detra spent the first six years of her career as an operating room nurse with plenty of overtime in the emergency room. After those hectic years, she moved into a much quieter field of nursing, Community and School Health, as she began to lose her vision. For 12 years, Detra continued to work as a nurse even though she was legally blind.

“When I lost my vision, at first, it never occurred to me that my sight would not improve,” Detra explained. “I thought I would get better and go back to work, but that’s not exactly how it happened.”

After losing her vision, Detra decided to go to rehab to learn how to make the most out of her vision loss. She learned how to develop better orientation and mobility skills, use assistive technology, and she received some vocational counseling.

Detra decided not to return to her old nursing position after rehabilitation, but she still wanted to be gainfully employed. Thanks to a few connections, Detra ended up going to work for an ophthalmologist where she was able to continue to use her nursing background and knowledge.

Due to Detra’s nursing experience and her knowledge on working with vision loss, she got the opportunity to work with Donna Maheady.

“I can’t remember how I met Donna, but I was aware of her work and authorship for some time before we became acquainted,” Detra said. “She often contacted me about issues nurses with vision loss were having and it was such a privilege to work with her and even write for her book and other venues.”

As for Detra’s contribution, she reviewed a couple chapters for the book, including a chapter about a nurse with Macular Degeneration, and provided commentary for readers.

Check out this preview of Detra’s commentary from the book!

I was very sorry to hear about the traumatic loss of Barbara’s son, husband and sight all wrapped into one long lasting event. People are amazing when they respond to such keen mental suffering the way she did. The triumphant outcome of keeping a promise and advancing her degree is tremendously healing and satisfying.

If you are now among the more than 25 million people in the United States living with vision loss, you need to know how important it is to find ways to accomplish routine tasks and goals. These are the skills that will enable you to live independently and productively, read and write, maintain a career—or launch a new one—raise a family, have a social life, travel, enjoy recreational sports, and games. In short, lead a normal life.

Go back and read Barbara’s story. Get in touch with American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) CareerConnect mentors who, in spite of being blind or visually impaired, are working as nurses. They have already traveled this road. Volunteers in this program can help the nurse or nursing student who is/has lost sight sort through the twists and turns of navigating their way to a career in nursing (or back into one).

Questions to ask yourself: Do you want to stay in this field of nursing or use this as an opportunity to broaden your experience? Do you want to stay in nursing at all or use your skills to re-career? Be encouraged that accepting that you may have to modify what you do in nursing or switch areas altogether is a winning strategy and not a defeat.

To read more of Detra’s commentary or any of the other inspirational stories, get your copy of The Exceptional Nurse: Tales from the trenches of truly resilient nurses working with disabilities today!

* is a nonprofit resource network committed to inclusion of more people with disabilities in the nursing profession. Founded by Donna Maheady, the organization hopes to facilitate inclusion of students with disabilities in nursing education programs and foster resilience and continued practice for nurses who are, or become, disabled. For more information, visit