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Nurses and Deaf Patients


Does anyone know if there is a need for nurses that know sign language? I started taking ASL classes a couple of years ago before I decided to do nursing(just because I love it). I thought that I wanted to be an interpreter, but decided not to go that route. I eventually decided that I wanted to become a nurse and will be starting an ADN program in a few weeks. Anywho, my love and passion for sign language still exists and I'd really like to return to it once I finish with this degree. I'd like to know if there is some way that I can combine the 2. What happens when patients are deaf? Do they write things down? Is there an interpreter on staff?

JustBeachyNurse, RN

Specializes in Complex pediatrics turned LTC/subacute geriatrics. Has 11 years experience.

JC requirements requires certified interpreters to be available for ASL or foreign languages. Generally the interpreter needs to be qualified in medical interpretation not just conversational.

I know basic sign language from working with my patient population and from eons ago. When I worked ED years ago as a tech my basic signs were appreciated by my hearing impaired and deaf patients that signed. It helped while waiting for the interpreter. Many read lips in addition to signing.

Yes it would be useful. How frequently or would be useful depends on the patient population you work in. If you work in a special needs population or as a school nurse in a special needs school it would be very helpful. In the ED it's helpful.

Basic ASL skills even came in handy when I worked in a major theme park guest relations dept. Now I work special needs/complex pediatrics and ASL is frequently used with the patients/students that have the motor skills to sign.

JustBeachyNurse, RN

Specializes in Complex pediatrics turned LTC/subacute geriatrics. Has 11 years experience.

JC = joint commission. Primary volunteer accreditation agency for hospitals


Specializes in LTC.

ASL is a language that I was always interested in. I found hearing-impaired pts among my most difficult pts, because of ME (not them). I always felt super frustrated with any pts with whom I could not communicate, be it just language or handicap.

I haven't seen where it's used very often, but it is most useful when needed. And I've worked with staff who were taking ASL classes for their degrees.

When in-house, most communication with hearing-impaired pts/visitors occurs via writing. Just very time-consuming and also dependent on visual and motor capabilities, as well as basic knowledge levels. Some basic lip-reading helps.

But ASL is a definite positive language skill, even if only conversational.