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My Best Deaf Patient!

Nurses Article   (16,458 Views 12 Replies 681 Words)
by nievesa nievesa, BSN, RN (Member) Member

nievesa is a BSN, RN and specializes in ER, Case Management, Nursing Instructor.

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I would like to share with you an amazing history that touched my heart 12 years ago. Sometimes we have some dreams or goals in our lives and procrastinated, waiting for the perfect moment. When we are nurses, we have to act now, because every moment, is perfect!

My Best Deaf Patient!

When I was a young graduate, I remember I had a pediatric patient and his mom was deaf. She was trying to tell me that something was happening in the room of her son, but I was very frustrated because I was not able to understand her hand movements. I thought she was upset or angry with me. I went to the room and the IV pump alarm was flashing (the line has air). That was an awkward moment for me because I did not know how to understand deaf people. And that broke my heart.

I've been a Registered Nurse for about 14 years. I have cared for many patients. Maybe I have forgotten some of them, others are still in my heart as they were the first time I met them.

I remember this little baby. She weighed 5 pounds 7 ounces and was very tiny. She had Thrombocytopenia and received Garamycin for awhile in NICU. When she was 3 months, her mother was in shock when the audiologist told to her that her daughter was deaf. OMG! Nobody in the family was deaf so they were all scared about all the typical questions about her health and future.

In that moment, I confirmed what I always had in my mind! I have to learn American Sign Language (ASL). What will happen if I have another deaf patient again? ASL it's so important for the Health Professionals. So I decided to enroll in ASL course. I learned at a very fast pace how to sign my name, and the basic words I need to communicate. I am still practicing and learning, but I know more signs that I knew before.

The mother of the little girl looked all over Puerto Rico to see what she could do to help her daughter. Not only pray for a miracle at nights, she looked for a specialist in Puerto Rico that might help her girl. Finally, she found an ENT who accepted her in order to perform the surgery for cochlear implant (a new procedure in the Island). She was one and a half years old... When I recently saw the pictures of that moment, two tears came from my eyes! The surgery took about three hours. Her mom was very anxious and worried. But the girl was so strong, stronger than the family. She was discharged from the hospital the next day and had her processor a few months later. The first time she could hear, she just cried. Her mom cried too!

Since that time, I encouraged the nurses and other health professionals how important it is to know at least the basics of ASL. Being deaf in a speaking society is like being in another country where the people cannot understand you and speak another language. Even worse, because being deaf is a limitation that is not easily recognized until you speak to the person and the person does not answer you.

Unfortunately more than 38,225,590 have hearing problems in United States. (1)

And the question we have to ask as a nurse is...Do I know ASL?

Once I took the ASL course, I learned another way of speech, another way to love, and another way to communication.

Speech, Love, and Communication

  • I not only can sign I AM YOUR NURSE, I also can sign I LOVE YOU and CAN I HELP YOU?
  • I understand THIS HURTS! And, I HAVE HEADACHE!
  • I also understand MOM, I LOVE YOU when my daughter was signing back to me.

That little princess is my baby and now I know ASL because of her.

Ten years later she speaks and hears almost perfect. She is an honor student, she speaks and also knows ASL. I am still learning that you do not have to wait until a family member has a situation to do something for others. Do it now!

Arleen Nieves Vázquez From Puerto Rico RN BSN Specialties: ER, Case Management, Nursing Instructor and CPR/First Aid/DEA Instructor

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Davey Do has 35 years experience and specializes in Psych, CD, HH, Admin, LTC, OR, ER, Med Surge.

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Thanks for sharing your simply beautiful Nursing experiences with us, nievesa!

Learning the basics of ASL, or just fingerspelling, is a very good idea for Nurses and other Medical Professionals.

In sharing my own history, I took a Sign language course when I was an LPN in 1986 due to regularly dealing with three Hearing-Impaired Psych Patients. I also used that course as an elective for the RN program.

It's been 30 years, but I continue to use basic Sign Language now and again. After the initial introduction and greeting, I usually sign "I know sign language. I'm bad. Please sign slow." I've found useful signs to be " Feeling? Pain? Medication. Help. Nurse. Doctor." etc.

Most Hearing Impaired are very understanding and patient with me. One patient I've known for years would often pointed at me and sign "You funny dumb". Interestingly, that Patient is an Elvis fan, looks a little like Elvis and can do some dance steps like him. A Person who has never heard Elvis' voice was drawn to him because of his actions!

A couple of years ago, I was asked to sign for an Adult Psych Patient who was upset over something about not seeing his Doctor and something about his meds. I basically explained the process to him with good results. A Tech witnessed this interaction and was so moved by it, she became certified in Signing!

Once again, nievesa, thanks for sharing your experience, and thank you for allowing me to share some of my own!

The best to you!

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nievesa is a BSN, RN and specializes in ER, Case Management, Nursing Instructor.

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Thanks so much! As a mother of a deaf girl I can tell you how important are the ASL. There are many people down there with hearing impairment. We can do something for them just knowing the basic. Best regards!

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Thanks so much! As a mother of a deaf girl I can tell you how important are the ASL. There are many people down there with hearing impairment. We can do something for them just knowing the basic. Best regards!

I am glad to read that your daughter seems fine and you learned how to cope.

It is my experience that when hearing people learn sign language they often "translate" word by word or attempt to do so. Sign language is a real language and the deaf culture is different from the hearing culture in may ways.

I would like to add for everybody who might not know -

The numeric pain scale is not the recommended pain scale for deaf people. The Wong-baker is more appropriate because the concept of attaching numbers to pain is something that does not translate well into the non hearing world. Also, pain can not be described the way hearing people can - a lot of questions related to pain assessment do not make sense to people whose first language is ASL. Or the concept is too foreign.

If you have to discuss more that the basics (for which you should use the ASL interpreter) , for example consents, advanced care planning, and so on - you should make all efforts and get a CDI (certified deaf interpreter) who is able to translate more accurately to and from the deaf person as they understand the language and culture better than a hearing person who has learned ASL Here is a link:

Certified Deaf Interpreters Explained | Signing Savvy Blog | ASL Sign Language Video Dictionary

Patients who are deaf have special needs and everybody must ensure that their rights are being uphold. Please, please, please - use a sign language interpreter and a CDI for everybody past the basics. If your employer gives you a hard time about it - the employer needs education..

I like in person interpretation best but sometimes (nights, holidays, very acute situation) that might be none available and I use an ipad with a live interpreter for ASL.

I know some basic signs and most patients are very happy about it even though I am not fluent in ASL.

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nievesa is a BSN, RN and specializes in ER, Case Management, Nursing Instructor.

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Thanks for your amazing contribution. You are correct, deaf people have their own culture and ways to do the things and express themselves.

My daughter is doing so well with her cochlear implant. In lifeprint.com you can learn a lot of words and learn how to spell, even practice!

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Axgrinder specializes in Adult MICU/SICU.

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You've made me see that not only do I need to learn sign language, but also Spanish, because AZ has a huge Spanish speaking population. No more excuses (and thank you).

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doodlebuttRN has 13 years experience.

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I applaud your dedication to this population. As a HOH nurse with a deaf mom with serious health issues, I have had much frustration seeing my poor mom try to communicate when hospitalized.

I wish she could have had someone like you... And when I finally lose my hearing and am profoundly deaf, I hope I have a nurse like you. Thank you for this post.

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nievesa is a BSN, RN and specializes in ER, Case Management, Nursing Instructor.

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You can do it! And thanks for your comment! Gracias!

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nievesa is a BSN, RN and specializes in ER, Case Management, Nursing Instructor.

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We can all make the difference together! Thanks for your comment and take care of your hearing.

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nievesa is a BSN, RN and specializes in ER, Case Management, Nursing Instructor.

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I count with your "likes" people. God bless you all! Iam participating in the "Article Contest"

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nievesa is a BSN, RN and specializes in ER, Case Management, Nursing Instructor.

1 Article; 22 Posts; 1,230 Profile Views

You've made me see that not only do I need to learn sign language, but also Spanish, because AZ has a huge Spanish speaking population. No more excuses (and thank you).

We can all make the difference together! Thanks for your comment and take care of your hearing.

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That is a beautiful story, thank you for sharing. I have thought about learning sign language myself, in a way I almost think some of it should be part of our curriculum in nursing, at least enough to be able to communicate. Although it is a different language it is needed because of a medical deficit.

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