Communication Strategies for Nurses Interacting with Deaf Patients

The language barrier often makes explaining a deaf patients medical situation difficult for the nurse, which leads to little or no understanding by the patient of what is happening. Providers need to understand, while paper and pen may be ok for some hearing impaired patients, it is not always an option for others. Despite the ADA (American Disabilities Act), many hospitals staff members fail to provide interpreters for their deaf patients due largely to cost, inconvenience, or ignorance of their legal obligation” (Christine Chong-hee Lieu).

There are indeed ways to break barriers between nurses and their deaf patients by understanding deaf culture, knowing deaf rights, and simply by finding the best way to communicate with the deaf patient. Learning how deaf culture works is the best place to begin a good understanding, of deaf patients as a people. Deaf people are usually members of their local Deaf communities.

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They often have social gatherings just as any other community would do. “English language proficiency levels may very because English frequently is learned as a second language” (Christine Chong-hee lieu). American Sign Language is often the first language learned by deaf children. Nurses should be aware that when given the best opportunity to understand medical information, the deaf patient will usually grasp it completely. Having a disability, is not commonly how deaf people view their hearing loss. However, being hearing impaired is legally considered a disability and therefore deaf people are protected under the ADA.

Protection under the ADA means that caretakers are accountable for making sure that deaf patients are given options for communication. Members of the family, though they may sign, are not what the ADA’s intention for interpreters is. “The health care provider must remember that family members would be unlikely to possess the breadth of signing skills needed to convey complex medical concepts that might need to be explained (Christine Chong-hee Lieu). All nurses and medical personal should familiarize themselves with the complete in-depth regulations and adherents of the ADA’s guidelines.

There are several ways to communicate with deaf patients some of which include, through an interpreter, paper and pen, sign language, and body language. An interpreter, which the patient is familiar with, should be used whenever possible as this is what is generally more comfortable for a patient who is hearing impaired. There are emergency situations where interpreters may be unavailable and paper and pen, is the only option. A nurse must remember that not all deaf people are proficient at the English Language and may have some difficulty reading it.

Sign Language classes are often available through hospitals and when they aren’t most hospitals will pay for their staff to attend a class somewhere within the vicinity. Body Language may seem small to a hearing person but it is one of the first things deaf people notice. For instance, if bad news were about to be told to a deaf patient, they would read it off of a person’s body language before they were told. Butigieg 3 If nurses an overall better understanding of deaf/hard of hearing people, they will have an easier time with their deaf patients.

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Communication Strategies for Nurses Interacting with Deaf Patients. (2018, Feb 04). Retrieved from