With figures from the Nursing and Midwifery Council revealing that only 3.13% of nurses in the UK have a disability, one woman is working hard to change not just her life but the lives of others with disabilities.
After experiencing care first-hand as a young person, Chloe Hammond made the decision while in hospital to become a nurse so that she could change people’s lives.
With today marking International Women’s Day, Chloe Hammond and her assistance dog Ocho have been celebrated on This Morning for their incredible work in nursing and inspirational story.
As a teenager, Chloe suffered from organ failure and has been diagnosed with many conditions since the age of 15, including Becet’s Disease, hypermobile EDS and fibromyalgia.
She is now believed to be the only wheelchair-using nurse with an assistance dog.
Two years ago Chloe was introduced to Ocho, her yellow Labrador retriever who was then just eight weeks old.
The pair have become inseparable and Ocho helps Chloe with everyday jobs as well as in her role as clinical lead nurse at care provider Radis Community Care.
Chloe said: “This hasn’t been an easy road, but I am so proud of the person I have become and the amount of lives I have touched.”
Chloe applied for lots of jobs but was turned away for several reasons – she was overqualified, the building wasn’t wheelchair accessible, her wheelchair was a fire hazard, Ocho the dog posed an infection threat.
Chloe said: “I was ready to give up. I was so sick of being told I wasn’t able to continue the career I had worked so hard for.
“Eventually, I was given the chance to be a nurse manager in a care home where I quickly proved my skills and worked my way up. I showed everyone that a wheelchair user with an assistance dog can still be a nurse and still be a valued employee.”
Chloe is now a valued member of Radis Community Care, which she said: “didn’t see any issues with me being a wheelchair user and loved the idea of welcoming its first assistance dog into the business.”
Ocho is now two years old, and is continually undergoing training and development to help Chloe in her personal life and at work.
His training was provided by the ‘small but mighty’ national charity DogA.I.D which provides specialist training via volunteer dog trainers.
Laura Jackson-Tyler, fundraising officer at DogA.I.D, said: “We are a small nationwide charity and although small we are doing life-changing work!
“We’re up and down the country and we specialise in training pet dogs into assistance dogs. And they are trained to assist their disabled owners with physical tasks. But the fact that Chloe is a nurse is just incredible.
“We have seen graphic designers, illustrators and even a NHS ambulance call handler go to work with their assistance dogs.
“There’s just some wonderful walks of life that these dogs get to go to and obviously the bonus of allowing their owners to get back to their careers. It’s just lovely.”
Chloe’s differences and Ocho have been embraced fully, and she has been supporting her employer Radis to encourage more people with disabilities to find a career in care.
She said: “It saddens me that even organisations that are set up to support people with disabilities are too quick to make discriminatory comments, or suppress a child or young persons’ dreams just because they have a disability.
“I hope that I can help encourage more children and young people to have dreams and aspirations and that the people around them can support them.”
To stay up to date with Chloe and Ocho, you can follow them on Instagram @WatchOchoGrow