I had a patient one day back when I was just starting out that was lying in his hospital bed when I came on duty. No one bothered to tell me that he was deaf and only understood sign language...guess that would have been nice to know as I was about to tell him he was going home after his bi pass surgery and explain to him the information he needed to know before he left.
I wrote down everything for him as soon as I found out, only to have him throw the paper at me and look very discouraged yet surprised! I was dumbfounded, here I was sending someone home..typically a happy event..and here he was acting what I felt to be very oddly! He was unwilling to use a writer board, so we were stuck...but it isn't like me to not head up a challenge head on!
I was able to contact an intrepreter through the hospital (out of some dusty book of phone numbers long since forgotten!), but because there was only one available in my area, and she worked for all area hospitals...it took hours. By that time his wife came in, she too also only communicated in sign and would not use a writer board either. I came into their room to write that I had found an interpreter and I was sorry for the delay..and explained things to them. They looked at eachother and sobbed frantically...and I was so very confused!
Finally the interpreter came, after hours of utter worry from me about my patient. Come to find out that the husband came in a week ago to the ED with chest discomfort, but they didn't understand that he had bypass surgery after having a heart attack in the ER! It was a total shock to them once I gave him the discharge orders..and they were upset and in total denial...the reason they would not communicate with me. The interpreter also told them how honestly worried I was about them, that I was brand new, and that I was a smart cookie in trying to find interpetation for Sign Language since not many facilities offer this. ( oh yeah, and I also learned that they felt that a writer board was offensive to them...some folks do feel that way...guess I found that out, and gave me much food for thought about other communication styles others may find offensive..but anyway...)
Once they knew that I was that honestly concerned and worried they opened up to me via the interpreter. They told me the very sad story of him being so weak and on medications that he couldn't read well, and all this reading of information was not working...that no information was ever given to him in a way he understood. Poor guy...tears streaming down his and his wifes eyes out of utter frustration, fear..and finally someone to listen. I got their doctor/surgeon on the phone and insisted he come down ASAP now that we had an interpreter...which thank goodness he did! That helped volumes!!!!!
On their way out they insisted I walk them out personally..and I did! They hugged me and thanked me so much that I actually cried! They were so appreciative that I took that extra time to help them, and again...one of the feathers in my cap of "I did well!".
I have wanted to take sign language (ASL) ever since but the one time I did, I didn't get into the course (didn't win that lottery on that one...too many folks)..and now I am far too busy. But it is not out of my mindset, and someday I will..along with my hubby who is interested..but then again he wants to take Spanish because as a paramedic in our area..that is a big bonus! I saw the need first hand and watched that need cry and it broke my heart!
I asked the interpreter about their job, and she made upwards to 40 bucks (IE one of the reasons the hospital didn't call or let nurses know they were available!) an hour because she was the only one, an advised strongly that if you are going to interpret, you do so on contract with your employer for being an interpreter...so that if you are called upon to interpret you get paid an agreed on fee for your services as one. That saves nurses, whom she said work to hard anyway to be running around as interpreters, from just being paid their wages yet provide interpretation for the entire facility PRN! Thought that was great advice!!!!! So you may want to think about that too...
Good luck, and if you wish to take sign language..I say go for it!!!! Hey, you can always fall on being an interpreter for organizations, facilities, schools, and what not and make a real difference too!!!!!!
Oh yeah...sorry so long...but my local community college also offers what they call "coffee sign" where people can come weekly to a local coffee shop to practice their skills each week! You don't have to be a student to join in, nothing to sign up for...just show up and sign! I am not kidding one starbucks was jammed packed with nothing but people using sign language! Check out to see if this is offered..thought it was a great way to get your practice in, and a great mocha latte too!!! THey also 'sign and dine' at local resturuants bi monthly at a designated place listed on the internet! Great stuff and a valuable service!