How to Communicate With Patients Who Can’t Speak


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 How Do You Communicate With a Patient Who Can’t Speak?

A Communication challenge has arisen in the intensive care unit of a local medical center.

No one was able to communicate with the patient who was paralyzed and had a tracheotomy in his throat. The patient was desperately trying to tell his family something but he couldn’t speak.

The nurse was called in to help. “Sorry we cannot help you. Call the Sign Language department and see if they can help,” was the nurses’ response.”

The sign language interpreter arrives and found that the patient does not know American Sign Language.

There is a person in town who teaches “lip reading.” He may be able to help. When I arrived and Looked the situation over, my question was; “How can I read lips of a patient with a tracheotomy in his throat and a tube in his nose?” The family was getting frustrated. There must be a solution, but where?

One of the nurses asked me to visit the security office, hoping they may be able to help. I explained the problem we were having with a patient who was trying convey a message. The security officer opened a drawer filled with papers and other stuff.

He handed me a sheet of paper that listed all the foreign language interpreters or translators that could be reached by phone. The patient spoke English. Now the hunt is escalated. Where can we get help?

I have received a letter from New York City asking for help, recently:

“Are there ‘professional’ lip readers? I’m in NYC and provide language interpreters. But lately we’ve had patients who can’t speak because of damage to their throat or similar issues. They can hear and don’t use sign language.

We want someone to come in and be like an interpreter. Most sign interpreters aren’t lip readers. 
Do you know any people who are interested in this kind of work?”
Thank You, D. Jondreau

While in the security office I noticed a paper that was written in Chinese. Even though I couldn’t read the Chinese language, I saw the solution I needed to communicate with my patient. It was so simple, so basic that I was dumbfounded. You will be surprised.

Get Free E-Book: How to Communicate With Patients Who Can’t Speak

Until the Trumpet Sounds: LET MY PEOPLE HEAR!

David M. Harrison, Advocate for Hearing Accessibility