August 15 2019
Patients who are deaf or have hearing loss are receiving additional levels of support thanks to the initiative and commitment of one of the Nurse Manager at Emersons Green NHS Treatment Centre.
The staff at the centre book sign language interpreters for patients when they know one is needed; however, Julia Ashfield wanted to offer more support. She explained, “I wanted to ensure that anyone who was deaf or had hearing loss felt welcomed and supported as they arrived at the centre.
“We do book interpreters but, if the referral does not state a sign language interrupter is needed, a person may arrive and no interpreter is available, which is why I decided to take a 20-week British Sign Language course at the University of the West of England.”
There, under the tutelage of a tutor who is himself deaf, she learned how to use verbal and non-verbal communication to support those coming to the centre as patients or as visitors.
She said: “Not only did we learn sign language, but we also learned the importance of facial expressions and body language. The course also taught that most people who have hearing loss lip read, to some level, and so speaking slowly and clearly, while facing them, is important.
“I learnt that sign language works on a different sentence construction to spoken English and that has helped me to write communications in an effective way, supporting patients when I have come to the limits of my sign language. It also taught me to stop talking to people when I am writing, as I have my head down and those who have hearing loss can no longer see my lips.”
Julia’s commitment has paid off and now she is supporting colleagues to learn how to greet patients and tell them their names. She said: “I am so pleased I took on the course and I have actually used it more than I anticipated. As well as supporting people who have hearing loss and giving additional support to those who have interpreters, I was able to support a lady whose referrer had forgotten to specify she needed an interpreter.”
“When I was able to explain to her what had happened, she grabbed my hands and started to cried, saying she was so thankful that someone had gone and trained for just this eventuality. It made all the hard work worthwhile.”