three images of nurses and people with disabilities

Equity Access Program

Equity Access organization mapEquity Access is a Duquesne University School of Nursing educational model developed by Dr. Rebecca Kronk and Dr. Alison Colbert. We seek to educate nurses and other healthcare providers about some of the specialized knowledge and skills we need to provide high quality care for individuals with disabilities.

Nursing students are expected to leave school with a solid foundation on how to care for people with disabilities, along with an understanding of how people with disabilities navigate an increasingly complex healthcare environment. However, very few nursing programs have explicit coursework and learning objectives in this area that are evidence-based and recognize disability as a multidimensional construct. Moreover, research suggests that the relationship between healthcare providers and people with disabilities is often sub-optimal, and that attitudes of discrimination and disempowerment predominate.

In order to make progress in preparing the nurses of tomorrow, we must implement effective teaching pedagogies today that can be tested, refined and replicated. Nursing education at all levels has a recognized gap in evidence-based teaching strategies developed to improve care for people with disabilities.

Our goals:

  • To provide a forum for healthcare providers to learn more about the special knowledge, skills and attitudes required to provide high quality care for people with disabilities.
  • To connect healthcare providers with other professional disciplines and advocates who are working tirelessly for accessibility for all, in all settings.

Faculty headshot of Dr. Alison Colbert

Alison Colbert, PhD, PHCNS-BC, FAAN
Associate Professor

524 Fisher Hall
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Faculty headshot of Dr. Rebecca Kronk

Rebecca Kronk, PhD, MSN, CRNP, ANEF, FAAN, CNE
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
Associate Professor

542C Fisher Hall
View Bio

Overview of Current Programs

Standardized Patient with Disability Program

This program provides a safe environment to teach, enhance, and assess the knowledge, skills, and behaviors of future nurses. Most programs use trained actors to serve as "disabled patients" during simulated educational exercises. At Duquesne, we aim to give persons living with a disability a stronger voice. Instead of actors, individuals living with a disability serve as Standardized Patient Consultants (SPC). This provides students with a more authentic experience and provides the SPC with an active role in shaping the care future nurses will provide.

SPCs stay connected to the school and each other via an SPC newsletter.

Stages II: A Summer Theater Camp for Youth with Disabilities

A one week summer camp for youth grades 7-12 to learn to develop acting, communication and self-esteem and self-advocacy skills. This School of Nursing and Theater Arts Department Partnership was made possible through a grant from the Edith Trees Foundation.

Equity Access: Online Nursing Education on Care for People with Disabilities

Online modules were developed to provide an introduction to the specialized knowledge related to the care of individuals with disabilities, with a focus on advocacy. The modules include multiple teaching strategies and can be assigned as supplemental to existing coursework.

Funding Related to Disability and Health Equity
Investigator Project Title Sponsor Description
Colbert, Alison Healthcare for People with Disabilities During COVID-19: A Qualitative Study Robert Wood Johnson Foundation The purpose of the project is to describe the barriers and facilitators to engagement in healthcare for people with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Colbert, Alison Advancing Nursing Education in Care for People with Disabilities Using the ‘From Wrongs to Rights' Digital Archive FISA Foundation This endeavor will be designed to address the lack of education related to the care of people with disabilities within the standard nursing school curriculum.
Colbert, Alison Equity Access: Educating and Empowering Healthcare Providers to Make Healthcare More Accessible FISA Foundation This project seeks to continue DUSON efforts to fill a critical need in the education of healthcare professionals, specifically related to the care of people with disabilities by building Equity Access as the infrastructure that can accommodate multiple projects.
Kronk, Rebecca Authentic Simulation: Promoting Better Healthcare for Children with Disabilities Edith Trees This project developed an undergraduate simulation program that incorporated children with disabilities into the learning environment so that nursing students gain valuable hands-on experience and graduate with the skills they need to provide equitable, competent, evidence-based care.
Kronk, Rebecca STAGES II - A Theater Program for Youth with Disabilities Edith Trees Children with disabilities will learn, thorough s summer theater arts camp, how to "act" as standardized patients who will train nursing students on their care.
Kronk, Rebecca STAGES II - A Theater Program for Youth with Disabilities Edith Trees The second year of the Stages II camp expands the camp experience for camp attendees to engage in STEAM-focused opportunities.
Kronk, Rebecca Authentic Simulation: A Way to Promote the Healthcare of People with Disabilities Hearst Foundation This project is developing an undergraduate simulation program that incorporates authentic patients with disabilities into the curriculum-learning environment to provide equitable, competent, evidence-based care to patients with disabilities.
Publications on Disabilities

Bassell J. L., Phan H., Leu R., Kronk R., & Visootsak J. (2015). Sleep profiles in children with Down syndrome. American Journal of Medical Genetics Part A, 167(8), 1830-1835.

Bennett, E. A., Kolko, R. P., Chia, L., Elliott, J. P., & Kalarchian, M. A. (2017). Treatment of obesity among youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities: An emerging role for telenursing. Western Journal of Nursing Research, 39(8), 65-69.

Colbert, A., & Kronk, R. (2020) Equity Access: Online nursing education on care for people with disabilities. Journal of Nursing Education, 59(6), 349-351.

Dew, M. A., & Garand, L. (2019). Beyond cross-sectional snapshots: Charting the course of burden in caregivers of family members with mild cognitive impairment. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 27(11), 1216-1218.

Donley, R. (2016). Exploring social justice for vulnerable populations: The face of the person with mental illness. Journal Horizonte De Enfermeria, 27(1), 59-71.

Garand, L., Morse, J. Q., Chia, L., Barnes, J., Dadebo, V., Lopez, O. L., & Dew, M. A. (2019). Problem-solving therapy reduces subjective burden levels in caregivers of family members with mild cognitive impairment or early-stage dementia: Secondary analysis of a randomized clinical trial. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 34, 957-965.

Kelley, P. W., Kenny, D., & Donley, R. (2017). Experiences of vulnerability and uncertainty during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars: Stories of wounded service members and the nurses who cared for them. Nursing Outlook, 65(5, Supplement), S71-S80.

Kronk, R. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice, 3rd Edition. In press, 2021. American Nurses Association Task Force.

Kronk, R., Colbert, A. M., Smeltzer, S. C., & Blunt, E. (2020). Development of prelicensure nursing competencies in caring for people with disabilities through Delphi Methodology. Nurse Educator, 45(3), E21-E25.

Kronk, R. & Filipink, R. (2018). Sleep in Fragile X Syndrome. In J. A. Accardo (Ed.), Sleep in Children with Neurodevelopmental Disabilities. Springer.

Nicholson, E., Doherty, E., Somanadhan, S., Guerin, S., Schreiber, J., Bury, G., Kroll, T., Raley, M., & McAuliffe, E. (2020). Health inequities in unscheduled healthcare for children with intellectual disabilities in Ireland: A study protocol. HRB Open Research, 3, 3.

Spigelmyer, P. C., Hupcey, J. E., Smith, C. A., Loeb, S. J., & Kitko, L. (2018). Resistiveness to care as experienced by family caregivers providing care for someone with dementia. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 50, 36-46.