Friday, March 13, 2009

Hearing impaired nurses - yes or no?

If you are in the hospital and your nurse is hearing impaired, would that bother you?  If the hearing impairment was mild? If the nurse was profoundly hearing impaired or deaf?


The issue of disabilities and nursing, particularly nurses who are deaf, was in the news in the United States not too long ago.  According to this article, Hearing-impaired nurse: court discusses disability discrimination issues, a profoundly deaf nurse was suspended and then fired after 3 and a half years of spotless records in caring for her patients.


An incident occurred when another staff member couldn't get hold of the nurse because she can't hear the telephone or overhead speakers. Apparently, the technician didn't have the equipment to use the nurse's special pager that the nurse carried.


After an investigation, the nurse was not considered to be negligent but she was re-evaluated. Her employers found that she had no problems with her nursing skills, but she failed to show up for an audiologist appointment to have her hearing tested. That's when she was suspended and then let go.


My question is, is there a limit? Is it reasonable to have a nurse who can't hear her patients and can't hear alarms?


Believe me, I am more than aware of discrimination against the disabled. I have a 34 year old brother with Down's syndrome who had a job he adored. He was working for a chain drug store and he did a wonderful job. The chain was sold to an even larger chain and the larger chain dumped my brother. When there were attempts to find other jobs for him, many people didn't want a "retard" working with them or for them. It took quite a while to find him a new job. Now he has had the same one for several years and he adores it again. He's not that hard to please! And he works very hard to please.


I've also worked with both physically disabled and/or deaf children. I know what types of challenges they face. But, I do have a bit of a problem with certain professions and certain disabilities. If I'm sick, I want my nurse to hear me, even if it's a slight moan. I want my nurse to hear me call out even if her back is turned. I want to feel safe and like someone is watching over me.


I'm not denying that someone who is hearing impaired can't do the work, the tasks, and use the thought processes involved. But hearing your patient, listening for specific sounds, tones of voice, nuances, they're all vital in communicating with the sick.


 I don't believe she should be fired for being deaf. But I do wonder what type of decisions were made to allow her go into this field to begin with.


~~~~~


Cookie diet update: Despite dire warnings of exhaustion and headaches, I managed quite well during the first week of the diet. I lost 6 pounds. I was 162 this time last week, I'm 156 now. Of course, the weight loss will slow down. You usually lose more the first week on any diet.


The cookies aren't as bad as they were the first day (blech!) but the blueberry are still not my favourite. I've been doing well with the banana and the oatmeal raisin. But, let's just say that I wouldn't eat them as something for a snack or on a regular basis if I wasn't doing this test.


My impression so far? If you're someone who has to lose weight fast for a function or something a few weeks down the line, it may be worth a try. I'm just going to try for another week to see how the second week's loss compares to the first and then I'll decide if I should just go back to sensible eating (yay!) or continue on to see how long it would take to lose the 20 I'm aiming for. Let's see...



8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with you that with certain professions disability IS an issue. In Nursing a profoundly deaf nurse IS a liability, same with a blind nurse working in the OR, Telemetry or ICU. There are definitely places for people but they do not belong at certain bedsides.

Mark Houston Recovery said...

This is somewhat difficult. In one sense, I would want to say that it wouldn't be an issue to have a hearing impaired nurse so long as she or he was doing their job without interruption. However, if problems are arising such as not being able to hear when they are being paged or if they are unable to hear reactions that the equipment is having in a patient's room, then I would have to agree that it is indeed a liability...

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to run into this article. As a deaf person who has considered a career in nursing, it's disappointing. From what I understand, the nurse mentioned was doing a good job and her skills were not in question. It sounds to me that the employer should have made sure that ALL employees knew how to contact this nurse. Why is she being held accountable for that?

And what of hearing nurses that experience a hearing loss/deafness? All that experience gone to waste, in a world where nurses are a shortage. How sad.

Anonymous said...

As a deaf registered nurse for two years, I never had a problem with the patients. Most of them are very glad I was their nurse regardless of my deafness. Its all about being the best nurse as possible. You just have to be in a setting with other co workers (RNs and aides) that are willing to be your ears when the phone rings or the IV pump beeping. But a deaf nurse should be able to talk and read lips very well like myself. If you guys were wondering what kind of setting I currently work at - medical/surgery floor. So if you guys feel that a deaf shouldnt be a registered nurse - be my patient and you will change your mind, that I can gaurantee... :)

Anonymous said...

I am a cardiac surgical RN and I am profoundly deaf (HOH). I provide my own accommodations such as an expensive electronic stethoscope and two behind the ear hearing aids. One thing I will say about Deaf/deaf/HOH people is they rely heavily on visual. So if a patient is in pain or have discomfort, believe me we see it before he/she can say it. So with that being said, the "disability" is at an advantage in my option. I have also had patients tell me I listen better than most of the nurses. And anyone can be a liability; hearing or deaf...it's all in the attitude.

Anonymous said...

I strongly favor accomodating disabilities. However, based upon experience, I have concerns about a hearing impaired nurse caring for patients. I do think it depends upon the nurse. My husband underwent brain surgery, and had a difficult recovery. He would be telling the nurse his symptoms and problems, but she would not respond, or would respond inappropriately (not answering the question he was asking). Finally, she said he would have to look directly at her when he talked, because she had to read lips. Unfortunately, in my husband's state, he couldn't remember this, and would talk to her when she was not directly in front of him, so she wasn't hearing his complaints and symptoms. Also, she did not provide enough opportunities where they were face to face for him to ask questions or relay his symptoms. This really concerned me, because his surgery was serious, and my husband thought she was hearing him, when she was not. This resulted in me having to stay there all the time, and make sure she was getting the information from him. I'm not sure how he would have even gotten her attention, since she was seldom facing him, and he was in bed. This puts the burden on the sick patient, when the nurse should be caring for the patient, not the patient trying to get the nurse to look at him so he can talk. It was a very difficult situation.

Anonymous said...

It saddens me to see some of these posts. I am a hearing impaired RN and I provide great care for my patients. I do have a special scope and I have to assess more aggressively. I stay near my patients and I make sure that I speak to them and ask their needs and not wait until they need something. I rely heavily on other senses and I would even say that I do a better job when assessing than able to hear nurses in many cases. There are many able to hear nurses out there that are horrible nurses and have no place being a nurse. In order for a hearing impaired nurse to be a nurse she or he has to care and have a passion for nursing and this requires a certain drive. I spent over $1500 for special equipment so that I hear every sound in the body and provide a thorough assessment. Many people do not understand a disability and until you walk in the shoes of a disabled person it is not fair to judge. Working with disabled people does not mean you understand being disabled. That means you know how to deal with them and thats about it. I commend any nurse out there that has any type of disability for I am one of you.

Anonymous said...

I am 39 yrs old and just now getting into the medical field. I am in my second semester for Medical Assisting. I have wanted to be an RN since I was 4 and at the age of 5 I had my right eardrum punctured. I can barely hear anything with out my hearing aid from that ear. I was not able to have an hearing aid till just this past year. I have no eardrum at all. I also have a special Stethoscope as well. I know I will never be able to work in a ER. but please do not tell me that Medical Assistants or Nurses should not work in the medical field. Being that I am partially hearing impaired I have excepted that I am limited where I can work and have excepted that. So yes, we as deaf medical care workers should be able to work in the medical field, but NOT were hairing is so crucial. We can always do good in other fields of the medical.