Ideas in communicating with deaf and mute patient



I chose a deaf/mute patient for this week's care. I'm a first semester nursing student.

I have in mind to bring in a small white board as well as notecards to communicate with this patient. I'm planning to memorize some simple sign languages as well.

Can you give me other ideas as well to communicate with this special patient? :)

I'm very excited to have chosen such an interesting patient.

Thank you!


784 Posts

How exciting! I love choosing patients that have something unique (or more unique than we would normally see)

Do you guys do any pre-clinical prep? Do you get to learn about him reading the files ahead of time? That might give you an idea of how people are communicating with him now and how you can continue doing what works or maybe bring ideas to enhance this.

Is it a LTC or acute care setting?

I guess my first step would be to see what they're using now, take a look at this effectiveness and then see if there's anything that could be improved upon.

Good luck, can't wait to hear about it!


13 Posts

Hi, this will end up being a great experience for you. I have studied ASL and Deaf culture and I can you that there are some things you can do to ease their fears and communicate more effectively. It is very frightening and stressful for a deaf person to be in a medical situation. The first thing that you need to do is maintain constant eye contact. Writing notes is also good, Deaf people are used to it. Also, be prepared to mime or act out certain things. You may feel silly but it is common practice and will be appreciated. Learning some signs is great too, there is a great website called that will help you with that. Don't assume that they can read lips, some can and some can't. Just treat them with compassion and kindness and do your best, you will both come out of it feeling great! Good Luck :-)

Esme12, ASN, BSN, RN

4 Articles; 20,908 Posts

Specializes in Critical Care, ED, Cath lab, CTPAC,Trauma. Has 43 years experience.

The white board is a great idea. The hospital may have something there....what setting is this acute or long term care?

nurseprnRN, BSN, RN

2 Articles; 5,114 Posts

I have an app on my iPhone called Sign 4 Me. You type in what you want to say and the guy in the window signs it. I just tried it with, "I am sorry I don't know sign. Is this ok?" It asked me whether "sign" meant "sign language" or a few other choices, and I tapped "sign language" -- if you use a word that could have different meanings, it asks you to clarify before it continues. I love it.

NurseOnAMotorcycle, ASN, RN

1 Article; 1,066 Posts

Specializes in Med-Surg, Emergency, CEN. Has 10 years experience.
The white board is a great idea. The hospital may have something there....what setting is this acute or long term care?


Rose_Queen, BSN, MSN, RN

6 Articles; 11,260 Posts

Specializes in OR, Nursing Professional Development. Has 18 years experience.

While good ideas for less formal communication, you may want to look up the facility/hospital's policy on use of interpreters and when an interpreter is required. For example, for any patient where a formal health history is being taken or informed consent is needed (and some nursing procedures do require consent, just not written), my facility requires the use of a trained and approved interpreter, whether for foreign languages or sign language. We are forbidden from using family as an interpreter- they may answer for the patient or not provide the patient with all information. Bilingual employees who are not trained and approved may face disciplinary action if they interpret. The policy should also be able to direct you to any resources- a number for a staff member who can locate translators or video/phone translation services. When using the white board, you may also need to keep in mind the patient's reading and writing abilities. Either way, it sounds like you'll have an educational clinical experience.

KelRN215, BSN, RN

1 Article; 7,349 Posts

Specializes in Pedi. Has 16 years experience.

When I worked in the hospital, we had ASL interpreters for such cases. The patient may very well be able to read lips. See what you can find out about how the staff is communicating with him every day.

llg, PhD, RN

13,469 Posts

Specializes in Nursing Professional Development. Has 46 years experience.

The current issue of Nursing2013 (November) has a good article on communicating with deaf/HOH patients. It includes a lot of good suggestions. Well worth your time -- and would be a great resource for your care plan, case study, term paper, etc.

Lev, MSN, RN, NP

9 Articles; 2,803 Posts

Specializes in Family Nurse Practitioner. Has 10 years experience.

In all seriousness, an interpreter.


165 Posts

My son is hearing impaired. Here are some DOs and DONTS-

Don't just walk into their room, establish that you will flash the lights to signal your entrance(this ensures privacy).

Don't ask them if they are going to get a cochlear implant to "fix" their deafness(yes, people ask us this about my son).

Do provide an interpreter. They have a right to privacy and it is your job to help ensure this. Also, you may think they understand, but the only way you will know is if you have an interpreter. Remember that medical terminology is not something that comes up in basic conversation.

Do stand in a well lit area and make sure you are not back lit. My son uses both a hearing aide and reads lips. This cannot be possible if I'm talking in the darkened room.

Do not take out their hearing aides. If you need them removed, communicate the reason and the length of time they will be out.

Establish a protocol for night time. Let them know that you will periodically be assessing them at night. Establish how you will let them know you are in the room.

Sorry for any typos, its late.

Good luck!


82 Posts

My dad is deaf too, everything dsb_fam said is perfect. Be aware if you are touching your face or mouth. People constantly cover their lips unknowingly.