I know most doctors have good intentions. I’m deaf and want to go over some things I wish medical professionals would improve. My friends and family in healthcare have asked and empathized with me about this, so I feel it’s valuable information that maybe many people don’t have.
Advice for Doctors with Deaf patients:
1. The most beautiful form of communication is the written question, “What form of communication is most accessible to you?”
2. Every office must have an interpreting agency on file to be contacted when a deaf person makes an appointment.
3. Please charge your office iPads, or have one saved that is not used regularly for a video interpreter.
4. Please don’t ask your patient how to get an interpreter… There’s privacy involved in this and medical interpreters; I can’t just give you my good friend’s number… We are tired of having to do this for everything else in my life, and especially if you aren’t in my immediate local area, you are giving me a whole new job to do.
5. If you don’t understand something, ask for repetition.
6. Talk to your patient, not the interpreter. NO: “Tell them that their-”
7. Thank the interpreter, but please don’t be excessive or create an additional conversation with them during appointments.
8. Let the client decide where the interpreter comes with/stands, don’t try and tell the interpreter where you think they should stand unless it’s medically necessary otherwise.
9. Don’t try and speak through the mask without an interpreter. Either write via notepad or look up 3-5 ASL signs to use beforehand while the interpreter is loading on an iPad. “Waiting, interpreter, sorry, and thank you.”
10. If you forgot the interpreter or someone dropped the ball, tell the patient honestly to determine how the patient get your specialty. If it is your fault, you better get the client in within the following week. Asking us to wait additional months for care over your error is heartbreaking. I have never been more offended by a doctor hiding from me, telling the receptionist they can’t see me because they don’t want to be sued. If we must reschedule, we can do that, but have some grace with your mistakes, deaf people don’t have time to sue, and if we could sue over every little thing, we’d be rich.
11. Please leave a note in your system's file if possible.
12. Ensure your receptionist knows to refrain from hanging up on interpreting lines, which sometimes may sound like a promotional call.
13. You don’t need to pitch cochlear implants, and it’s also not the time for you to give me an impromptu lesson so you can learn about them…
14. Be patient; I know you see many people, but you must write if you forget an interpreter. Write clearly and communicate via writing to the best of your ability.
15. Don't pet the service dog.
16. If the interpreter is in person, I know it’s a fantastic job. Please wait till AFTER the client’s medical appointment to talk and ask them about it.
17. Thank you so much for your time and patience; please remember that deaf people are humans with nuanced fears and concerns that need to be communicated and addressed.