Hospital communication kits

16 09 2007

Have you ever been a hospital patient? Was it a frightening or nerve-wracking experience? For deaf people it’s that much more scarier. Why? There are many things a deaf person will miss – a doctor/nurse calling your name, medical staff ‘mumbling’ instructions, not quite catching a response over the intercom to your call button, not being able to lip read the night nurse in the dim light.

I used to work for a national deaf charity and had brought up the idea of hospital communication aids before but it never got anywhere. No one seems to be offering aids in the UK for hospital patients, the most you can get is an ear symbol sticker and hearing loss badge from Hearing Concern.

Preparation is vital for a less stressful hospital stay. In the USA you can purchase from a couple of HLAA chapters (branches) an item called a hospital communication kit for about US$5. This link also has a sample Dear Doctor/Dear Nurse letter to give to your doctor/nurse, with handy communication tips.

I wonder how effective such a kit would be. Would staff bother to read it? Would they understand the communication tactics required? Three years ago, I sat in a hospital corridor waiting to be seen by a Ear Nose Throat specialist for an upgrade to my hearing aids. A nurse came up to me and said ‘He’s shouting for you’ and showed me into his office which was just behind me. The door had been open, why couldn’t he have just come out and got me? He started saying something and I didn’t have a clue what he said, he was Indian with a heavy foreign accent. I asked the nurse to translate, she said he was telling me to leave my dog outside. At that point I erupted. No way, he’s a Hearing Dog for Gawd’s sake! The doctor couldn’t even be bothered to look at my file which ONLY has notes relating to my profound hearing loss, so he shouted for me as if I was a hearing person, he couldn’t be bothered to speak clearly, and then he discriminated against me on account of my Hearing Dog! I was livid. I certainly gave that doctor a piece of my mind!

I have recently given deaf awareness training to final year medical students. When it came to their assessments, half of them spoke to me as if I was five, or did not bother to speak clearly and check if I had understood. Gnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn! Of course, they failed the assessment. Isn’t that worrying? These are our future doctors and nurses!

What are your hospital experiences – are they good or bad?




14 responses

16 09 2007

the hospital communication kit is designed for hard of hearing people, not for deaf people. we would need a different kind of kit for deaf who only communicates in signs.

my hospital experience was generally good. some nurses knew how to deal with me. some were clueless. they had a bit trouble to set up a tty for me in the hospital room. it did not come with a flashing light. old tty. sigh… big city hospitals are bit more aware of deaf needs than smaller hospitals… ADA laws in USA require hospitals to provide interpreters. That helps alot if hospital is able to provide… some hospitals may have trouble to find one due to unavailablity of interpreters in small towns.

16 09 2007

I was hospitalized for almost an one month last June 2007, then transferred to the nursing home at my doctor’s order for no-weight bearings on both legs.

I frequently pushed the call button, but no help came in. I was quite frustrated and disgusted for lack of help via immediate response. I found out later three weeks later that the call button within the voice intercom from the nurse’s station responded thru voice – “May I help you?” I couldn’t hear the intercom communication. The nurses just ignored my plea for immediate help. I couldn’t move physically from broken legs and left arm.

I didn’t know until one of the awesome interpreter joined me by lying on empty bed. He heard voices from the intercom like “May I help you?”, then no response from me. So the help on the way wasn’t coming at all.

I was infuriated about lack of common sense within assigned nurses and medical student interns. I scolded the head nurse for not instructing their nurses and medical student interns to check me out from my call buttons since I couldn’t respond to the intercom. Sheesh!

I fought out with nurses, hospital adminstrators and patients advocates for not being understanding of cultural and linguistic sensitivity toward deaf people. I was left with cold meals without nurses letting me know that the meal(s) was being served. I was asleep from time to time.

Nurses finally came to the understanding how I should be treated as a deaf patient, not any hearing patient. Nurses gently shook my feet with bed sheet covered them as part of effective communciation.

I was given the TTY which I couldn’t use due to broken left arm. I could not hold the TTY within myself. I requested for the VP (videophone), but the hospital doesn’t have the VP at all. Quite frustrating for me. I couldn’t lift myself to type on TTY via lifting table.

Nurses, doctors and hospital adminstrators usually came too close to my face. I told them to move little further from me for more effective communication with interpreters stood next to them. I repeatedly told them to move from my face every time I had to.

Robert L. Mason (RLM)

16 09 2007

Don’t let me start on about hospitals..I’d probably end up doing six pages ranting about GWU hospital, and praising the Spalding Rehab hospital… It’s really ironic…GWU hospital being a stone’s toss from White House and Gallaudet being in the “neighborhood” yet…the WORST NIGHTMARE ever in my life! Yet Spalding Rehabitional Hospital in Colorado where interpreters are hard to find, even less certified ones, yet I got certified interpreters daily while my stay at the hospital.. Ironic, indeed.

16 09 2007
Deaf Pixie

Oh, no!! I remember your comment from SeekGeo’s story about hit you by car.
Same thing I have had a go through issues when I had a second baby was born and they never woke me up when my baby hungry. They keep page me. I sadi Hey Deaf is meaning “Cannot hear the page. Why dont you come and light on and woke me up. They never come to me for five day. They had to put forumula I was blew up at the nurse. I changed new insurance. because of that. I was clueless until I discovered after I brought her home from hosptial in Redmonds to Lynnwood,WA. I confronted Doctor. I told her I fired her. because I am so frustrated with the hospital. Sad things that CSDHH refused to help me at all for ADA Law. it is too late from 15 years ago.
Now I know what to do from now. I understand Robert’s feeling with stupidest about deaf meaning that the ear broken” The nurse or doctor think Deaf is Hard of Hearing. Totally wrong. I am really knew how Robert’s feeling and burst at nurse and doctor are negelcted of your request by page. That’s rough time for you. I hope it is turn out better?

Deaf Pixie

16 09 2007
Deaf Pixie

Hey, Are you file against them for ADA? File complaint sooner. Please share with me and email me at Deaf . I know you are lonely without talk anybody.


Deaf Pixie

16 09 2007
Deaf Pixie

OOPS. I did not explained to you better, CSCHH,Community Service Center Deafness and Hard of hearing office are closed for a good. They are abused on grant. but now they moved to Hearing Speech Deafness Center. They still dont help with deaf client about legal advocay in Seattle. What is big shame !
I mean my email address suppose together is

Deaf Pixie

16 09 2007

Hospitals are crap around here ! In order for my partner to recuperate properly we had to sign her OUT of hospital care a week early, because the stress of being left alone and unsupported made her worse. I couldn’t stay there all the time because I had a son to care for, and only when I went, was anyone communicating much at all.

They said she could watch TV (It had no subtitles !), I tried explaining she needed sign access ALL the time or she wouldn’t follow. The only one who knew a bit of finger spelling was the cleaner ! she only worked AM, it was far too dangerous to her well-being to stay in hospital, it was THAT bad !

I can well understand many deaf not wanting to go at all. Even IF you find that rare example of a medical nurse, Dr, or consultant that could actually sign or use a pencil, the next shift you would find nobody could, it was impossible. there is simply no continuity of support.

The set up they had to provide signed support I established alone there a few years ago, it STILL, only works between 9 am and 3.30pm and not nights or weekends. This is Deaf access 21stc. Hearing terps wouldn’t work without extra money out of hours, the NHS wouldn’t pay for it. All they will pay for is if a Dr sees you in the daytime to consult, then, they go away again, so you are left wondering if you have taken it all in correctly. “We’ll let your GP know…”, I was there and said “bugger the GP, tell US what is going on..”. I also found the terp provided was rubbish as well, and I had, to help HER !

16 09 2007

h – Yep, agreed, communication kits do need to be accessible to sign language users as well as deaf with speech

robert – I am truly horrified at your experience. were there any avenues for complaint and what was the outcome?

wolfers – Please DO rant. We need to know about such issues 🙂

deaf pixie – I’m in England. I’m too busy to be lonely! And it’s an eternal fight for equal access isn’t it. Chin up.

MM – Are you in Wales? I didn’t know an important part of medical care in Wales is watching TV. But it’s certainly disgusting that you can only get terps 9-3. I’d love to see a senior doctor / ENT surgeon lose their hearing, and see what happens …..

17 09 2007

I already wrote about my hospital experience in my blog. For those of you who missed it, I will make a brief re-run.

A year ago I was in the hospital for a full knee replacement. Oh, you know, at first you only get Jello after your surgery, but 30+ hours later after watching everyone else chow down, I asked someone why I didn’t have any meals. And the attendant replied, “Oh, you have to order your meals over the house telephone”.

There was no closed captioning on my room t.v. believe it or not! Finally they moved me to a room with CC and my roommate was a 14 year old girl who watched Nick At Night 24/7. ~~Sigh~~

Then I did a little whining because I had no means of communicating with the outside world. Finally on the 3rd day the Chaplain brought me a tty! I hadn’t seen one of those in ages. I told the Chaplain that he was 20 years behind the times, and he looked hurt, so I did use it one time to make everyone happy.

My new knee is working great, tho,so I guess I should be thankful!


17 09 2007
Richard Roehm

The HLAA $5 paper kits can hardly stand up to a deafie lawsuit.

Ours is $200 and has a Ameriphone 4425 TTY for the deaf, visual signals for phones and doors, Clarity JV35 amplified phone for the hard of hearing. And all these items have medical engineering clearance meaning they are safe to operate in the vicinity of medical equipment.

Most hospitals have CC on TV’s and strobe fire alarms.

17 09 2007

It’s basic access and common sense, you cannot be ill just between 9 am and 3.30pm ! If the NHS is a 24hr service, and the police and ambulance are, then why isn’t support ? You would find Dr’s refusing to write things down as well. These debates cut across the entire deaf and HI area about who, is actually providing support, and why the deaf in particular are resisting the call NOT to use family.

I was told at one PCT meeting he reason terps aren’t coming through is because a large majority of deaf people prefer not to use them, so, not creating the demand necessary the emergency services would have to respond to. The NHS in a crafty way of saving money, ‘encouraged’ deaf ‘preference’ for family and friends, as an excuse NOT to provide terps.

If you need treatment at the Docs or the Hospital the FIRST thing they ask is, “Have you someone to help you with communication ?” thus putting the onus straight back on you…. only be creating demand will support appear. The deaf are not creating this demand. The problem of family bias, poor signing within the family by hearing children etc, was highlighted a few years ago, when a deaf woman turned up very ill at hospital with a 7yr old as terp for her.

Obviously the child had no skills or was emotionally apart from the situation to convey communication properly, the consultant refused to use the child and after phoning all around the hospital managed to get a nurse in who could sign a bit, the BDA then chastised the hospital for not allowing the deaf woman her ‘preference’ you see the problem …..

18 09 2007
Deaf Pixie

Poor Lanatana!!!

It is hell for you to not able to communicate with stupides nurse and shared with 14 yr old girl for TV. I know what is likely you have go through 24/7 days. It is rough time for you to not able to get CC.

OMG! If I were in your shoes. I will scream!! for their attention likely RLM’s saying about frustrated.

I just want to hug you more!!


Deaf Pixie

19 09 2007

You know you can get interpeter thru interpeter acengy buiness for hosptail and i notice when i was in emerg room and i saw sign said about deaf intepeter let me know so i was lay on bed and nurse ask me if you need a interpeter yes or no i said wow yes and i been wait for 2 hrs until finally arrive in same day and interpeter was with me 24 hrs a day in patient room understand interpeter will let you know when time is up and wait for another interpeter show up and interpeter go home i said awsome also interpeter will tell nurse what you need for tdd and tell nurse set up closed caption or interpeter will do for you cuz all hosptail have eqiument for deaf supply thought by ada laws also if you need a doctor appt has dr called interpeter in agancy will come to dr for you and interpeter will listen call your name and if there is hearing impaired dog take in hosptail and hearing impaired dog should wear “orange collar” mean deaf patient or deaf family also i never forget when i am on medince i am too downess feel high and i use sign langauge talk to doctor and i caught dr said right back i going to get interpeter lol cuz interpeter arrive late you knows laws must have Deaf needs no matter where you go places in near NTID in new york they have Deaf doctors i wish it would be here with us but in future Many more Deaf doctor will come spread out if Deaf is interesting became one then no problems being commucation easier Remember 24 hrs interpeter always there for you and let them know dr about interpeter acengy phone number everywhere in usa around near you in states

20 09 2007

Deaf Pixie,

I am not really lonely talking to someone. I wish that I do not spend much time on cyberworld. Kinda addicted for me spending too much time on the

I am trying to reduce my computer use on daily basis.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s