Exploring posttraumatic growth in doctors with acquired invisible disability

Abstract

Objectives

Qualitative studies of the relationship between acquired invisible disability (AcqID) and posttraumatic growth (PTG) are scant, especially in the context of healthcare professionals. This study aimed to explore in-depth accounts of the lived experience of PTG in doctors with AcqID arising from physical illness with cognitive dysfunction.

Design

Five doctors who had been diagnosed in the last decade with a physical illness with cognitive dysfunction resulting in an AcqID, and who self-reported at least one feature of PTG participated in this qualitative research study.

Methods

Semi-structured interviews were used to collect data, which were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis.

Results

This study recognized that AcqID supported a process of PTG for participants. Three superordinate themes were apparent across the sample: identity (The human left behind), self (Acceptance of the disabled self), and rebirth (The phoenix rises from the ashes). Human connection, service as a value, and the role of the body were found to be key facilitators of PTG in these participants. This study offers new perspectives on cognitive-embodied appreciation in facilitating PTG in doctors with AcqID.

Conclusions

While the participants perceived AcqID with cognitive dysfunction to be a trauma, they also experienced PTG, Corporeal PTG and a new considered domain, Cognitive-Embodied PTG. The unrealised potential of PTG can be harnessed if doctors with disability are viewed as assets to the medical profession, and diversity is promoted through the provision of appropriate support. Thus, there is potential to cultivate a flourishing, inclusive, and compassionate culture within medicine.

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