It’s All About Communication


I spent most of the day hanging around Mass General Hospital today while a family member had surgery. During these many hours I spent some quality time pondering the imponderable. Why do the Hard of Hearing have so much trouble with service providers, particularly medical personnel?

On the one hand, I can go to NVH and everyone I run into there knows how to relate to a hard of hearing person.  But…they have an Interpreter for the Deaf on staff – and are proud of it! They do their best to offer assistance promptly and efficiently.  MVH on the other hand seems to have no idea how to relate to someone with a  hearing problem.  I mean clueless – totally.

When an ENT and their office staff members are equally clueless I am both baffled at the lack of competence (lets call it what it is) and frustrated by the lack of response.

So what’s the difference between MVH where no one knows what to do and NVH – a tiny, isolated, HoH and Deaf friendly hospital? What gives? It can’t be corporate philosophy as they’re both owned by the same mega-chain.

I kept kicking the can down the street mentally and came back to the concept of AWARENESS.  Good old being in the moment awareness. And how do you become aware – even in the Buddhist sense of learning to be in the moment? Training followed up with practice.

Not a handout no one reads, but pervasive institutional training.  Someone at NVH took the time to make it a HoH and Deaf friendly facility.  Training and practice. You can’t learn anything without training of some sort and some kind of practice in using the training.

It isn’t about hearing  Not everyone can nor should get a CI. It is about communication.  And to be able to communicate with anyone you have to be aware of communication styles.  Without adequate training and practice – or some positive exposure to the HoH or Deaf – you have folks who are blissfully unaware that they are inadequately serving clientele.

It is why I’ve literally told more than one doctor: “You are not competent to serve this patient” when I’ve acted as a patient advocate. It is why I don’t hesitate to pull the plug on an incompetent provider who is unwilling to learn.

So, having had this “awakening,” I’m at the hospital making notes on my trusty iPhone.  

Tonight I started a Google document presentation. It’s in rough draft and it’s out of order.  It’s something I can put up on the web and make accessible to the world.  I might reach out to some terp type folk I know. Gotta start somewhere.

Then I plan on creating a neat, tight little document in big type that can be printed and handed out to  providers who take our hard-earned money and give bloodily little back in return regarding communication.  Something with just a few easy points – because they aren’t going to read much – and nicely phrased to be informative and non-confrontational.

Not everyone is as obnoxious confrontational aggressive assertive as I am, so a handout needs to be short and sweet.

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One response

  1. I’d use that handout!! I was also thinking a lot about this, and it is a lack of competence and training in one’s job. I wish there were more people who would go above and beyond the least they can get by with in their job, and would go a step further and do something when they see it needs to be done.

    Wouldn’t you think front staff at an ENT, would get tired of trying to communicate with HoH and Deaf without knowing how? Of course, maybe it’s just me that thinks….if I worked here I’d have to do something, “the poor patients, and it takes me twice as long to do my job because I’m not communicating well enough.”
    OK, it may just be me a lot of the time.

    However, my ENT office has a patient liaison, or they did, hopefully they still do. I plan on talking with her, and backing it up in written form, about communication training in this office. I also plan on talking and writing to the personnel manager, patient advocate supervisor…ect. There is no excuse for Duke to not have better communication skills. Some people do well, however, I really don’t know if they did when I first started going there or if I’ve trained them : ) I don’t remember. But everyone should be mindful and unconscious of what they are doing. Incompetence should not be allowed in the work place.

    I too have had a wonderful experience at a different hospital. It is owned by the University of North Carolina…I don’t know if all their hospitals are like the one I visited for tests. But the staff was very prepared to help with different situations so patients could feel comfortable and communicate with personnel.
    There has to be a way to do this, and not make it such a big deal. There isn’t much turn over at Duke’s ENT clinic, so the cost of training should be minimum.

    We’ll see what we can do.

    keep me posted on that handout.

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