The official blog of Safari Bill (Dr. William Vicars)-- Lexicographer, protologism developer, enchiridion author, ASL evangelist, and immersion excursion guide.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Hospital Communication and the Deaf

In a message dated 12/3/2008 3:53:03 A.M. Pacific Standard Time, jennifer writes:
Good Morning Bill, I am a nurse at Banner Desert hospital. I had a horrible experience with a deaf patient recently. I couldn't understand him and he couldn't understand me. It was awful due to the situation. It seemed like it took us forever to find someone to interpret for us. Treatment was delayed. I don't want to be in that situation again. I need to learn ASL with an added twist... medicine. For example, "I need to place a tube in your penis to drain your bladder." :( Will your program help me with that? If not where can I turn? Any help will be greatly appreciated.

If I were you, I'd try to hire a local interpreter to function as a private tutor and pay him/her to teach you 10 or so phrases each week. Use a video camera to record the signing so you can practice on your own later then have him or her test you the next week.
Was the patient able to understand written English? Sometimes a small whiteboard can be very effective for communication with bilingual Deaf.
Have your hospital check into the feasiblitity of using video relay interpreting. You could use an internet connection and a laptop to connect to an interpreter online. (Very common these days in the Deaf world.) See: for a discussion of VRS that might apply to your situation.
--Dr. Bill

Hello Dr. Bill,

I came across one of your blogs and there was a post from a nurse at Banner Desert Medical Center who said she had had a horrible experience trying to communicate with a deaf patient. This concerned me greatly, since Banner Desert has a number of tools for our caregivers to use to communicate with deaf or hearing impaired patients. Caregivers can choose from a number of options depending on the situation, including contracting with a one-on-one interpreter, using notes, and our newest tool, which is the DeafTalk remote interpreting equipment. I would have posted this information on the blog, but I was not able to access it.
Thank you for your time.
Nancy Neff
Director of Public Relations
Banner Desert Medical Center and