Deaf Student Nurses

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I am a counseling intern looking for nurses, either student or working, who are Deaf or hard of hearing. I am working with a Deaf student who is wanting to become an RN. We are looking to find anyone to share their experiences with this student. What oobsticales that had to be over come, what difficulties they have had achieving their goals? etc... I can be e-mailed.

Thank you.

Miss Mollie

16 Posts

I don't mean to be discouraging, but I do think it will be very difficult for someone who is entirely deaf to work as a clinical nurse. The reason being is that we use our ears frequently. We listen to and evaluate breath sounds, and bowel sounds. We need to be aware of slight changes in respiratory patterns. Our patients that can communicate will talk to us. I know there are many alternate commications out there, but I can not imagine a sick person in pain, being interested in trying to use something new. Many units use sound alarms to alert when something is going wrong- while a light can be used, you have to be looking at the light- not seeing the light could cause a delay in treatment for the problem, and cause problems for the patient.

I can imagine, however, that there would be many opportunities in research, or QA, or infection control which this student could be very successful.

While ears are needed for physical assessment, I can see where a psychiatric nurse in a largely populated area could counsel deaf patients. As an ADRN and Deaf Studies major, I see where this is needed. Many deaf clients do not want an interpreter, they want one on one with a counselor who signs and can communicate with them in a more private manner. This may be something to look into.


29 Posts

Originally posted by lauraclouser:

While ears are needed for physical assessment, I can see where a psychiatric nurse in a largely populated area could counsel deaf patients. As an ADRN and Deaf Studies major, I see where this is needed. Many deaf clients do not want an interpreter, they want one on one with a counselor who signs and can communicate with them in a more private manner. This may be something to look into.

How will the person be able to get through nursing school without hearing lung sounds, heart sounds, taking bp? I am deaf in my left ear and have been so all of my life. My right ear has compensated for the loss of my left, so I do not have problems assessing. I don't like to tell people that they can't do something, but I don't understand how this person will be able to pass basic nursing with no hearing.


119 Posts

I think as a deaf individual they need someone who they can talk to. Does your client have any oral speak skills? I work with a group of hearing impaired and deaf individuals at church and i know some just sign and some have deveopled oral skills.Most hosptials in my area have a list of certified interepters and some of the deaf will bring their own with them when they come to the hosptials. I believe in all honesty that this is truely a "Hearing" profession. I myself am hear of hearing I have the problem that if there is too much noise i can't hear it's a blur, so i don't work around monitors-it's a heredity thing -my dad had it. I have even checked into the new litmann stethoscope that has the diaphram that is super sensititive so that i can hear lung and bowel sounds better. I am learning sign and will some day communicate that way. The deaf communities could use some one in the community health area that can speak directly to them. Has your client thought about teaching? or counseling? or maybe working at a WIC or speciality clinic that the deaf come to? She would be a great help to both the hearing and the deaf or maybe a headstart program where she could work with deaf children? But i think as far as nursing she is really going to be disappointed. :(


1,250 Posts

:D found this site and thought it might help. i e-mailed it to you, but thought i'd post it also so people can see that anything can e done if you put your mind to it!!

good luck to your student!! :)


119 Posts

i checked out this site it is wonderful!!!!! Thank you for sharing :D


2 Posts

Most probably don't know this, but there are quite a few Deaf individuals who are in the medical profession and doing very well. These range from EMTs, firefighters, Drs, Nurses etc ... Of course it's alittle more challenging, but still we've been able to do it. Plus there are different technologies out there which enable the Deaf to "hearing breath sounds" and so on.

I do realise that this post is an old issue on this board but just wanted to clarify things.

If anyone reads this.. we also have a website which may offer some assistance to any Deaf student interested in Nursing or other health professions.

Good luck!

CR Lee, MSN (Cardiac)

Home Health Columnist / Guide


11 Articles; 18,069 Posts

Specializes in Vents, Telemetry, Home Care, Home infusion.


401 Posts

Specializes in LTC & Private Duty Pediatrics.

Being a nursing student who is deaf in one ear and partially in the other ear -- I have a special interest in your situation.


As mentioned on other threads -- I use an electronic stethoscope to hear sounds.


Fortunately, I hear well enough to hold a normal conversation, and can hear IV alarms, and understand the STAT overhead pages.


Drawbacks...I cannot tell which direction the sound is comming from. Also, I had a hell of a hard time hearing in the OR when we did our "outside classroom experiences." The Surgeon asked me to answer his page -- and I had to step outside of the OR to understand the operator (phone). It's the background noise that kills me.


I plan on looking into amplified hearing aids/etc once I get out of nursing school and get a real world job. Right now--just have ultra high deductible insurance (mainly for cancer/etc.) -- that won't even begin to look at hearing equipment/etc.


Good luck.

John Coxey

Syracuse, NY.

llg, PhD, RN

13,469 Posts

Specializes in Nursing Professional Development.

I started my nursing career with normal hearing, but have lost about 60% since then. At the age of 38, I lost 100% of the function in my right (hearing, balance, with some tinnitus) and am a little weak on certain frequecies in my left. By that time, I was already in nursing staff develoment and administration and it hasn't effected my career significantly. Though, if I were a bedside nurse, I would have many of the problems mentioned by the other posters in this thread.

I have often thought about the possibilities of a deaf nurse and believe that we should make room for someone who has the drive to do it. However, the person to pioneer the idea of going to nursing school while deaf (which is very different from losing hearing after becoming a nurse) would have to make all sorts of special arrangements and find a school willing/able to help with those special arrangements. The state board of nursing would also be cooperative.

When I was in graduate school (mid - 1990's) at the Univ. of Colorado Health Sciences Center, I knew a student who used a wheel chair. I believe Colorado was able/willing to accommodate her special needs in part because they were comfortable with her career goals and expectations. She had been a successful Physical Therapist who had been hit by drunk driver, leaving her paralyzed from the waiste down. As a PT, she was a already an expert in assisting patients with spinal cord injuries and had a successful career in that field. She wanted to study nursing so that she could provide more comprehensive care and bring a broader base of knowledge to her patients. She was very realistic in her plans/expectations of never having to do the physical type of work typically done by new graduate staff nurses. She would be using her nursing knowledge to enrich and expand an already successful career.

I would like to think that a deaf nurse could make herself a similar niche. However, it would probably be much more difficult to do so if the student didn't already have something going for him/her to build upon that would increase their chances of launching a successful career. Beginner-level nurses aren't generally hired for the types of work for which a deaf nurse might be best-suited. But I like to think that the right person could make it work -- and set an example that could be followed by others. While there are probably several ways for a deaf person to launch a successful nursing career, the best chance for success might be through a dual major or by starting a related career first and then adding the nursing knowledge to it. Having the additional field of expertise provides the new-graduate deaf nurse a better chance of getting jobs that are not usually available to new-graduate nurses, such as community health (focused on the deaf community) ... or health education ... or working in health care setting that has many deaf patients, etc.

There is also another website that might have something to offer

It's for nurses with disabilities of all types.

Good luck,


Jay-Jay, RN

633 Posts

As a nurse who is severely hard of hearing in the right ear, and has a moderately severe loss in the left, I have found my niche in community nursing. This eliminates the problem with background noise that is the bane of the hearing-impaired person's existence.

I am currently studying ASL at the Bob Rumball Centre for the Deaf, and came across this fantastic article about a Deaf nurse who works as a L&D nurse. I'll see if I can dig it up and post it. She cannot hear speech, but can still hear heart tones with a specially amplified stethescope.

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