Working in regular health care settings as a deaf nurse?

Hi everyone,

It has been so long since I have written something. My last post was on the 22nd of July 2016, and at that time I just came back from San Francisco… oh how the time flies!

So, what have I been up to? Am I going to start writing again? First I’ll give an update – I’d like to say a ‘small update’, but I can never write short stories, so bear with me! After that I’ll explain a little about the title and my experiences working in a ‘regular team’ with a ‘regular job’ without any accommodations.

Last year of Nursing school has begun!
Where to start? In January I finished my 3rd year internship, and I passed, so that means I’m officially a 4th year Nursing student now! Woop woop! I did a 5-month traineeship as a student-nurse in a mental health facility, and it was such a great experience. I got to work along with registered (general) nurses, psychiatric nurses, nurse practitioners, psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers. Working in psychiatry is a whole other kind of nursing than what I was used to – On my first day working at this facility I started with meeting all colleagues who where there during shift handover, and after that I met all the clients and had breakfast together with them. Everyone was… walking… and… dressed? And were physically fine. That was definitely different!

During my 5 months of internship I learned a lot, but the most important thing is: I learned that this is really the work I see myself doing.


Writing a group research paper
The past 5 weeks have been busy as well: I started on my thesis and group research paper. I like my own, individual, thesis best – because in the group research I got assigned to a research-request from a health care facility and it’s always challenging to work in a group: will I hear what someone is saying? am I speaking too loud? how many times have I already asked someone to repeat what has been said? can I just nod now, or do I have to check if I’ve understood correctly? It’s exhausting to try and get all the information like this… BUT: I really like doing research in general, finding ways to help improve a facility, being part of something constructive. And I like the subject I got assigned to, so that helps!

“How accessible is health care for D/deaf and Hard of Hearing people?”
My (individual) thesis/paper is also AWESOME. I’m working on a question regarding health care accessibility for D/deaf and Hard of Hearing patients in my country.
I don’t know how accessible health care is for people who are, for example, in a wheelchair, or can’t walk very well, or people who are blind, but I assume (sorry if I’m wrong about this!) that this is mostly ‘physical’ accesibility, for example, in hospitals: can you get in and around the hospital if you’re in a wheelchair – are there elevators, wide corridors, no obstructions on the floors? How do you get around if you’re blind/have low vision? –> if you ask an employee a question, you’ll get an answer that you can hear.

Information is being said to you in (usually) your language, or a language that is easily accessible to you. I think this is different for many D/deaf and HoH people in some cases… they get around physically, they will find their way to the place in the hospital they have to be. But then? How does communication go if you can’t hear other people – or can hear some things, but not everything? If you have surgery and you have to stay in the hospital: will the busy nurses take extra time to make communication smoothly with you, if they are understaffed, overworked, and have 10 other patients to see within the next hour? Or will they say: “It’s not important, I’ll take care of it?”, or don’t finish the intake forms because you have spent a lot of time together clarifying things and figuring out what the other was saying? If they don’t know important information, or if you don’t understand important information that’s being given to you, then what will be the consequences? Do D/deaf and HoH people tell nurses what they need in communication? Or have they tried so many times that they don’t even try anymore? I’ve seen these communication breakdowns happen at work multiple times – and have read / heard about it a lot, in all sorts of health care facilities… so, that’s why I’m focussing on that with my thesis!


Working in regular health care settings as a deaf Nurse?
So, now I’ve talked about the subject of my thesis, I’ll give you some of my experiences working as a deaf nurse in regular health care settings. The day I started my 3rd year internship I told my supervisor that I don’t hear much, and so I wear hearing aids. I also told her: just speak normally, if I’m unsure if I’ve heard you I will let you know. During that week it came up a couple of times; sometimes colleagues saw my hearing aids and asked, sometimes I told them. Now, working in mental health care equals constant communication – and the clients who were in treatment knew that I sometimes asked them to repeat what they had said. I was open about it and didn’t want anyone to feel bad for me: I don’t mind putting extra energy in good communication – I sometimes summarized what I think had been said, and it was actually liked: people knew that I had listened to them.

Were there any obstacles or funny moments when working with only hearing people?
I was scared of not being able to communicate with clients and colleagues, of that people would think of me as ‘less’, but that was not the case at all. I think that because I was open about it, and gave information about what they could take into account (face me, or tap me if I haven’t responded, speak in your natural speaking voice, don’t yell – it won’t help, etc.). The only real obstacle was answering the phone, and because I didn’t hear anything through them I didn’t use them, until we got new pagers that amplified… after my shift I went home, and the next day I came to work only to see the night shift nurses’ head almost exploding because the pager was set SO LOUD that she had wrapped it in a bunch of towels so she didn’t go deaf herself.

There were many funny things… sometimes there were a lot of people standing and talking in the nurses station, while my colleague and I were writing the shift handovers. It made it impossible to focus, so I put my hearing aids off and worked along in silence. My colleagues were always jealous that they couldn’t do that too.

A nice moment was when I prepared a poem in signlanguage to practice with the group of clients, nurses and therapists, and everyone told me afterwards that they had really liked the auditory silence and the beauty of a visual language – It’s nice to introduce people to deaf culture/signlanguage, and during my internship everyone has been so open about it, and it has never felt strange.

So. I think that’s enough update for today I suppose! I’d like to do more with raising awareness, I’ve already gotten some emails about this, so I’m going to think about what’s next! Something to definitely look out for is a blog about ‘Tourettes and acceptance’ (self-acceptance and acceptance of others).

Question: what do you want other people to know (about deafness, tourettes, (dis)abilities at work)??

Cuddles for you all!