In April, I was invited by Donna Green, who is the Chief Nurse and Deputy CEO of Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to deliver a talk to a group of ‘Modern Matrons’ in Basingstoke. I was originally supposed to be one of two people who would deliver a talk, but the other person pulled out, leaving me with the opportunity to talk for an hour and a half!
On Wednesday 4th July, I arrived at Basingstoke Hospital, feeling positive. However, as I sat in the waiting room of the ARK Conference Centre, my nerves started to build up, and before I knew it, my heart was pounding and I was drenched in sweat!
I was led up to the conference room at 10:20am and grabbed a seat to listen to a senior manager speak to the matrons about the recent CQC inspection (which was pretty interesting!). After this, there was a small refreshments break, so I had the opportunity to set up my presentation and pour myself some water. I also took the opportunity to chat to Donna about her career and about the role of the matrons so I could understand my audience better. The matrons hold the highest nursing position, and are positioned on different wards throughout the three hospitals in Hampshire that make up the Trust.
The aim of the presentation was to talk about my deafness, and to explore how deaf people can access health care in a way that provides them with an equal understanding as their hearing peers. I started the talk by introducing myself, and spoke briefly about my educational and occupational history. I then delved into my deafness, and explained how I was brought up with Sign Language, and I also elaborated on certain points in my life such as my experiences at boarding school and at university.
Before I talked about my experience in the healthcare sector as a deaf person, I asked the matrons to line themselves up in order of their birth date. They were not allowed to communicate using speech, so it was interesting to watch them work their way around their limited communication. In order to address it, some people gestured, pointed, and even wrote their birthday down on paper! After this, I asked them how the activity made them feel, and they highlighted it was fun, and quite easy because they already knew each other. However, they mentioned it was frustrating that they couldn’t use their preferred method of communication. I pointed out that this is how many deaf people feel when trying to communicate with their hearing peers. It can also be a dangerous situation as it can be a life or death situation, or important information could be missed out.
I then introduced some positive and negative experiences I have had as a deaf person in hospitals, and explained how these experiences could have been avoided. I then showed some real-life negative examples of deaf people in healthcare, and asked the matrons how they would have avoided these situations. They were all very vocal, and produced some brilliant ideas! They then went into small groups to discuss some statements or ways of working that they will tell their colleagues about in order to better interact with deaf people. Such ideas included using apps for video interpreting or voice-to-text services. They also spoke about lip-reading, facing the patient, and ensuring they understood procedures and tests properly.
We then had enough time for some questions, and some staff asked for basic signs, so we had a brief lesson in sign language where I taught them to say ‘hello, my name is…’
All in all, it was a brilliant session, and I left feeling very positive and accomplished. I really hope that many more opportunities like this will pop up again in the future.