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October 14, 2002

Students with disabilities can succeed in nursing

From: Kansas City Nursing News, KS
Oct. 14, 2002

The law requires that nursing schools determine how potential nursing students with disabilities can be as successful as possible in their programs.
Hearing impaired students have successfully completed programs at several local nursing schools, including Research College of Nursing and Johnson County Community College.

"We must ask, 'Can a student complete program objectives through means that are educationally sound?'" said Nancy DeBasio, RN, Ph.D., and dean of Research College of Nursing.
Two hearing impaired seniors - Courtney Vetor and Christine O'Dell - will graduate from the college in May 2003.
"These two students are at the top of their class," DeBasio said. "If we have (a hearing impaired student that is) a lip reader we make sure she sits close to the professor. If we have a non-lip-reader, we pay for an interpreter. We partner with Rockhurst University - which has these students throughout all four years - and split the cost.
"Our faculty has done a very good job of educating nurse managers and other staff members regarding how these students can meet clinical objectives. And we have had no negative reports from patients."
Vetor's hearing threshold is 25 percent of normal, and her language comprehension is at 65 percent if the speaker is not visible. She stopped wearing hearing aids in sixth grade and reads lips during conversations.
"Faculty members and students look directly at me when they talk and I sometimes get extra handouts of notes if there is a lot of material," Vetor said. "I also have an amplified stethoscope."
O'Dell wears bilateral digital hearing aids. She has no hearing in the upper and lower sound frequency ranges. Within the mid-range of frequencies, O'Dell hears tones at a level of 14 percent in one ear and 40 percent in the other. She utilizes a sign language interpreter in the classroom and during her clinical practicum, and also uses an amplified stethoscope, which attaches to her hearing aid through a boot.
Linda Bricker, RN, completed her nurse training at Johnson County Community College in May and she currently works with diabetes and renal patients at the University of Kansas Medical Center. She has a 50 percent bilateral hearing loss.
Throughout her program Bricker made sure she sat in front during lectures and stood close to the speaker when a class went on tours.
"My classmates repeated things for me and let me share their class notes," she said. "I had another hard-of-hearing classmate, and we helped each other, too."
At work Bricker has a volume control stethoscope that she never loans. She removes her hearing aid when she uses it. A volume control handset for the main unit phone she uses further facilitates her activities.
"I've tried to help others adapt to working with me," Bricker said. "I tell my co-workers I have a 50 percent hearing loss.
"People with hearing impairments want to see a speaker face-to-face, with no visual obstructions. If I don't understand them, I take my ears to them. I also get along very well with geriatric and hard-of-hearing patients."
Nursing can provide special challenges for hearing impaired individuals beyond those found in other professions.
"So much of nursing is dealing with people," Vetor said. "I constantly have to learn new speech patterns among patients, nurses and doctors, rather than being in an office where the people don't change as often."
O'Dell agreed.
"There are a huge number of people to educate regarding how to communicate with you when you have a hearing impairment," she said. "And it's fairly new for people with hearing impairments to enter medicine in larger numbers."

©Kansas City Nursing News 2002