College students can be faced with many challenges as they go through their academic career. These challenges can be different for those that have a disability. 

Nick Shortridge (Photograph contributed / SGA)

Nick Shortridge, a nursing student at ETSU, has faced many trials and tribulations in the wake of his disability. However, he has never given up.

After being diagnosed with cancer as a teenager, Shortridge now relies on a cane to walk anything more than a short distance. 

“When I was 15 years old, I had a rare bone cancer called ewing sarcoma,” Shortridge said. “Due to all the surgeries, my bone didn’t heal well in my left femur. So, I walk with a cane.” 

Shortridge feels that the university has many features that make it easier for him to maneuver around campus efficiently. Parking and having alternative options to stairs have helped him get to where he needs to be.     

“I feel like our campus is pretty handicap accessible,” Shortridge said. “As far as parking, there are a lot of handicap spots close to buildings, especially the ones that pertain to me. There’s also elevators in most of the buildings.”

Because he is a nursing student, Shortridge is required to take part in clinical rounds at the hospital. The use of his cane was initially a problem in trying to do this and almost forced him to change his major entirely. 

“Clinicals have been my big question mark with how far I can push my leg,” Shortridge said.  “The College of Nursing and Ballad Health had what I would say is a problem with me walking with a cane inside of their hospitals.”

Prior to Shortridge’s situation, there was nothing in the bylaws for students participating in programs liken clinicals to accommodate those with disabilities. Because of this, Shortridge felt it wasn’t fair to be asked to change his major and wanted to see a change.   

“They had the bylaws between Ballad Health and ETSU rewritten in order to accommodate students with disabilities,” Shortridge said. “Prior to this, they did not have accommodations for students with things like canes or wheelchairs for any of the programs that go inside the hospital.”    

While in clinicals, Shortridge can use his cane but must keep it outside of the patient’s room that he is attending to. This makes moving about the hospital rooms difficult.

“It stills makes it very hard.” Shortridge said. “The days I have clinicals are the days where I go through the most pain in my leg.”

Even with all he has been through, Shortridge feels his perseverance is what has kept him going and gotten him to where he is today. He wants other students with disabilities to never feel alone and not let their disability hinder their aspirations and goals.  

“To any student that has a disability and comes to a roadblock, never let someone tell you ‘no,’” he said. “Go through the process it takes to get the equal treatment you deserve.”