Sign language knowledge and nursing

  1. Hi.... - I have a previous degree (B.A.) in Communication Disorders. In the midst of obtaining that degree and in the years afterwards I became fluent in sign language and worked as a volunteer teacher's aide with deaf children and as a volunteer interpreting for the deaf. I was wondering if anyone knows of any instances, or fields of nursing in which my knowledge of sign language would be able to be combined with my love of nursing.....
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  2. 12 Comments

  3. by   lsyorke
    I know the alphabet and it did come in handy once. I had a patient who lip read and didn't have her glasses. Until we got her glasses(too close and she couldn't see me, if I moved farther away it was too far to read my lips) she read my very slow alphabet spelling, but it helped alot.
  4. by   mom and nurse
    Quote from lsyorke
    I know the alphabet and it did come in handy once. I had a patient who lip read and didn't have her glasses. Until we got her glasses(too close and she couldn't see me, if I moved farther away it was too far to read my lips) she read my very slow alphabet spelling, but it helped alot.
    Isyorke - I'm sure she enjoyed your attempts to communicate. I have a friend who is deaf and I know that its a plus for her if she can find someone who is working in the doctor's office who can sign.
  5. by   RNPATL
    Quote from mom and nurse
    Hi.... - I have a previous degree (B.A.) in Communication Disorders. In the midst of obtaining that degree and in the years afterwards I became fluent in sign language and worked as a volunteer teacher's aide with deaf children and as a volunteer interpreting for the deaf. I was wondering if anyone knows of any instances, or fields of nursing in which my knowledge of sign language would be able to be combined with my love of nursing.....
    I have been actively involved in the deaf community since I was 12 years old. When I entered nursing, I was also interested in finding ways in which my ASL skills could benefit patients. Over the years, I have had many opportunities to help communicate with the deaf and hard of hearing. Today, these skills are very useful in local deaf service/community centers. I often volunteer there and am able to offer health lectures and wellness days to the deaf. My sign skills have grown over the years and I really love ASL. I think the most rewarding part of being a nurse and being able to sign as a hearing person, is the friendships that I have developed throughout the years. Hope this helps.
  6. by   susanna
    I don't know of any specific fields but I think you will come across deaf people in health care who need you for whatever field you choose. So if you're worrying about that, don't worry about that. I've already come across a few and I wish I could sign ASL but I can't.

    I'm guessing that an ear doctor or any other doctors who deal with hearing(I don't know the correct name for it) would greatly benefit from your services.

    The world of the deaf is so fascinating to me. Congratulations on learning sign language. I heard it is difficult for a hearing person to become fluent in.
  7. by   mom and nurse
    Quote from RNPATL
    I have been actively involved in the deaf community since I was 12 years old. When I entered nursing, I was also interested in finding ways in which my ASL skills could benefit patients. Over the years, I have had many opportunities to help communicate with the deaf and hard of hearing. Today, these skills are very useful in local deaf service/community centers. I often volunteer there and am able to offer health lectures and wellness days to the deaf. My sign skills have grown over the years and I really love ASL. I think the most rewarding part of being a nurse and being able to sign as a hearing person, is the friendships that I have developed throughout the years. Hope this helps.
    RNPATL - Thanks for replying - That's a good idea to volunteer with a local deaf community center. I was also thinking that perhaps I could ask a couple of my deaf friends for their views on where someone who signs and is a nurse could volunteer. I really enjoyed the time I spent in the classroom with the children who were deaf (on the elementary school level). I know that there is a school for the deaf that's not too far away also...I may try to contact them about volunteer opportunities.
  8. by   mom and nurse
    Quote from susanna
    I don't know of any specific fields but I think you will come across deaf people in health care who need you for whatever field you choose. So if you're worrying about that, don't worry about that. I've already come across a few and I wish I could sign ASL but I can't.

    I'm guessing that an ear doctor or any other doctors who deal with hearing(I don't know the correct name for it) would greatly benefit from your services.

    The world of the deaf is so fascinating to me. Congratulations on learning sign language. I heard it is difficult for a hearing person to become fluent in.
    Susanna - thank you. I know that I was looking through a book about the various opportunities for nurses and it mentioned nurses working with otolaryngologists and that sign language comes in handy for those nurses.

    I think what helped me to learn sign language more fluently was when I was volunteering at an elementary school for the deaf in Washington D.C. on the campus of what is now Gallaudet University. I remember in one class I volunteered in, the teacher was deaf, the teacher's assistant was deaf and of course all the children were deaf or hard of hearing. I was the only hearing person in the classroom. I had a "book and classroom" knowledge of sign language and I remember I felt more comfortable if I made a mistake in my signs with the children (they were quite patient)....and being on this campus (which is made up mainly of deaf and hard of hearing college students) and also includes a deaf high school, helped me to learn much about the deaf community. By the end of that volunteer year I was more fluent in sign language.
  9. by   PJMommy
    What about a ear, nose, throat & hearing disorders research hospitals? I don't know where you are at but hospitals like Boston Childrens, John Tracy, or Boys Town come to mind.

    You could see if any local schools for the Deaf need a volunteer or part-time school nurse.

    I love the idea of doing health seminars for the deaf community.

    Most states have an agency or commission that works solely as an advocate for the deaf/HoH -- contact your state's commission. I'm sure they'll be thrilled to find you and work with you to find ways to incorporate your nursing expertise with your second language.

    Good luck!!
  10. by   boggle
    It would be wonderful to have a nurse with knowledge of sign language at my hospital. It's awful to have to put the deaf patient's family members(sometimes young children) in the role of interpreter during assessments and care. Us nurses ask a lot of very private questions!!! I always felt my deaf patients lost a lot of dignity then, and both the patient and family member were embarassed. How much information was not disclosed, i wonder, because the patient did not want to share that info with the family member?

    Good luck with your career.
  11. by   mom and nurse
    Quote from PJMommy
    What about a ear, nose, throat & hearing disorders research hospitals? I don't know where you are at but hospitals like Boston Childrens, John Tracy, or Boys Town come to mind.

    You could see if any local schools for the Deaf need a volunteer or part-time school nurse.

    I love the idea of doing health seminars for the deaf community.

    Most states have an agency or commission that works solely as an advocate for the deaf/HoH -- contact your state's commission. I'm sure they'll be thrilled to find you and work with you to find ways to incorporate your nursing expertise with your second language.

    Good luck!!
    PJMommy - Thanks - That's a good idea. I had not thought about contacting any local agencies that work with the deaf. I live outside Washington D.C. and I know that within DC there are a large amount of resources for deaf people. I need to check about the agencies that work out in the suburbs of DC. I know there is a school for the deaf nearby (about 30 minutes away.... I could try volunteering there....
  12. by   mom and nurse
    Quote from boggle
    It would be wonderful to have a nurse with knowledge of sign language at my hospital. It's awful to have to put the deaf patient's family members(sometimes young children) in the role of interpreter during assessments and care. Us nurses ask a lot of very private questions!!! I always felt my deaf patients lost a lot of dignity then, and both the patient and family member were embarassed. How much information was not disclosed, i wonder, because the patient did not want to share that info with the family member?

    Good luck with your career.
    Thanks boggle - Yes, perhaps my knowledge of sign language will come in handy no matter where I work. (There is an old book called "In this Sign" by Joanne Greenberg in which the deaf couple have two hearing children and the daughter relates how hard it was for her mom, and for herself as a hearing child, trying to interpret personal health information between her mom's physician and her mom. I believe it was made into a movie called "Love is Never Silent" years later. The book was required reading in a class I attended when I obtained my first degree in Communication Disorders. Many things have changed for deaf people since the time (I believe the 1930s- 1960s ) that the book take place but it showed some of the problems deaf people face in a world geared toward hearing. The book takes the couple from their youth through their old age years when they become grandparents).
  13. by   kidluvinRN
    I have been learning some basic ASL over the past year, and want to learn more! It has been a help in communicating with special needs children, especially kids with CP, Autism.
  14. by   mom and nurse
    Quote from kidluvinRN
    I have been learning some basic ASL over the past year, and want to learn more! It has been a help in communicating with special needs children, especially kids with CP, Autism.
    kidluvinRN - I'm sure sign language will come in handy if you have any deaf pediatric patients. I remember from my work with deaf children that they were excited to meet someone who could communicate with them in sign language instead of through an interpreter...

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