Communication Strategies for Nurses Interacting With Patients Who Are Deaf

Christine Chong-hee Lieu, BA; Georgia Robins Sadler, PhD, MBA, BSN; Judith T. Fullerton, PhD, CNM, FACNM; Paulette Deyo Stohlmann, MSN, RN, OCN


Dermatology Nursing. 2007;19(6):541-544; 549-55. 

In This Article

Communication Failure

Communication failure may occur due to the high stress inherent in the medical situation and the hospital setting or due to the time constraints placed on health care pro viders. The nurse especially should be aware of culturally appropriate ways to intervene in stressful situations. Maintaining a neutral space with a deaf patient to limit misinterpretation of confrontation or authority is crucial to de-escalating a tense situation. Interpreters also should be aware of de-escalating techniques. When interpreters facilitate the communication between the nurse and deaf patient, the angry patient may feel more isolated; conversely, the interpreting lag may allow the patient the time needed to regain composure (Jeffrey & Austen, 2005).

Non-aggressive, socially ap propriate eye contact should be maintained, as discontinuous eye contact is perceived as impolite within the Deaf community (Jeffrey & Austen, 2005). If the deaf patient seems to respond solely to the interpreter and to disregard the health care providers, the nurse should be aware that this could be a sign of hostility toward the provider. Even greater sensitivity is needed in this situation as the nurse looks for signs or gently asks the patient for information that will allow confirmation of a possible explanation of the pa tient's behavior (Jeffrey & Austen, 2005).


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