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My name is Kathryn Patterson and I am a third year Adult Nurse at Edge Hill University, Liverpool. I am writing this post in relation to my experiences as a student, and the implementation of a communications tool in my clinical area to overcome a language barrier when meeting a Deaf man on my current clinical placement.
In my theatre placement I decided that due to the unavailability of an interpreter and a patient unable to communicate properly in recovery because of a language barrier, a tool focusing on emotion would be useful. To gain ideas about how to communicate with patients who are D/deaf , I contacted The Deaf Health Charity Sign Health and asked them for information. I then implemented my tool – pictures of emotions and the words in many languages below.
Since then, I have been interested in improving my communication skills and techniques so I can meet with patients’ needs in the future and optimise quality care. I have recently worked with a Deaf patient. This has been an amazing experience which I found hard at first, but, as I have got to know the patient and built a professional relationship with them and their family, my understanding has really improved. At the start, I found it hard and was asking the patient to communicate by writing things down, but now that I have a better understanding, the patient is teaching me a little sign language such as how to say thank you.
Top Tips for Communicating
It is important for staff to get a D/deaf patient’s full attention before communicating, perhaps by giving them a light tap on their shoulder, and to keep eye contact and use facial expressions to show interest. It is amazing to watch a patient communicate with their family or interpreter using sign language, but when they interpret for you, it’s important to continue looking at the patient.
It is really important to take time and put effort in to what they are communicating and to show empathy back. Deaf patients are no different to anyone else so it is important to understand their needs like you would for hearing people. I have been able to have a laugh and joke with this particular patient and have really enjoyed providing their care. Learning how to communicate has been interesting although it has been frustrating for the patient when I couldn’t understand them and then asked them to write things down.
“In the future I hope I can learn basic sign language in order to provide equal health care for Deaf patients.”