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Disability support worker comforting a person with intellectual disability as they wait in Emergency

Disability Staff

Ward Stays

In these scenes, you will again meet Jeff with Amelia, his support worker and also Cassandra with both Frank, her father, and Johnno, her disability support worker.

Applying the Framework

Diagram showing the four framework processes, with the Knowing segment highlighted.

Knowing that

  • Hospital staff are not always available to support patients' personal care needs.​

  • Hospital staff may not know that a patient has a Hospital Passport or have time to review it. 

  • Hospital staff vary in knowing how to meet personal care needs specific to the person's disability

  • Direct support for an NDIS participant in hospital is often not included in their funding, with some exceptions regarding care needs directly related to their disability.

  • Some hospitals have Disability Liaison Officers who can provide support for patients with disabilities and their carers.

Diagram showing the four framework processes, with the Informing segment highlighted.



As a person's direct support worker, you will need to tell hospital ward staff

  • your relationship with the person

  • whether you can provide any support to the person when in hospital

  • what you know about the person's direct personal support needs

  • what you know about the person's health conditions

  • how to help support their personal care

  • how to reduce the chance of triggering health problems (e.g., seizures)

  • how to read the facial expressions, gestures, signs and/or behaviours of people who do not speak.

  • how to help the person understand instructions or what is going to happen

Diagram showing the four framework processes, with the Collaborating segment highlighted.

Collaborating is when you 


  • share with hospital staff what you know about the person's support needs and health conditions

  • calmly advocate for their needs and do this repeatedly with new staff

  • work with hospital staff and accompanying family to suggest ways to support their care

  • accept that the hospital may or may not be able to implement your suggestion(s)

  • when possible and appropriate, offer to assist in supporting the person's care

Diagram showing the four framework processes, with the Supporting segment highlighted.



The person with intellectual disability will feel supported when

  • you advocate for their needs with different hospital staff

  • strategies are put in place to reduce the chance for adverse events

  • their basic care needs are met


Knowing something about the hospital system and the health of people with intellectual disabilities will be useful background when you accompany a person with intellectual disability to hospital.

People with intellectual disabilities have high rates of health conditions. These health conditions may or may not be the reason for the person's hospital stay. Many people with intellectual disabilities will have personal care needs, which can go unmet unless one or more hospital staff have been assigned this role. Often, hospitals do not have people in these roles or their availability is limited, leaving the person with intellectual disabilities dependent on family and/ or disability support staff. Most often, disability support workers are not funded to support a person in hospital.  Some hospitals do have Disability Liaison Officers, who may be able to assist in negotiating personal care support for patients with disabilities.


Good quality hospital care for people with intellectual disabilities relies on ensuring both their health and personal care needs are met, which is most likely when hospital and disability staff and family collaborate.


You can find further information in Resources about intellectual disability frequent health concerns,  hospital Disability Liaison Officers, and the NDIS and hospitals.



These are provided to support your learning, individually or in a group. You can write responses in the workbook sections available for download. 

Re-watch the following video of Johnno and Jasmine, a ward nurse.

In your workbook, respond to the following:

  1. Identify what might have been useful for Johnno to know about the hospital.

  2. Describe what you think was the nurse's understanding of Cassandra's use of signs or gestures to communicate.

  3. Explain if and how you think Johnno advocated on behalf of Cassandra.

  4. Explain if and how knowing this information would have helped Cassandra to feel supported.

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