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A chemotherapy nurse who taught herself sign language has been praised for the way she has transformed care for deaf patients on her hospital unit in Staffordshire.
Dawn Bebbington, staff nurse on the chemotherapy unit at County Hospital in Stafford, was inspired to learn British Sign Language (BSL) after treating a deaf patient and only being able to communicate with him via an interpreter.
“Having Dawn who is able to sign, even at a basic level makes my mum a lot more comfortable with what’s going on”
“He’d come in with his interpreter and sit down and start signing, and I thought, I wish I could do that,” she said.
“So, I went home and thought to myself that the problem is actually me, I need to be able to communicate with all patients.”
Ms Bebbington, who has worked at the University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust for 32 years, is about to complete a level one BSL course.
One patient to benefit from Ms Bebbington’s ability to sign is 62-year-old Shirley Whiteside who had been self-isolating with her son Philip Whiteside during her course of treatment.
Mr Whiteside told how having a nurse at the hospital who could sign had made a “vast difference” in the care his mother had received.
“She doesn’t have to find somebody else or rely on her son to translate everything”
“What makes us special in this world is the ability to communicate, and not being able to have that in a time of need such as undergoing chemotherapy is very difficult to feel comfortable with what is going on,” he said.
“So having Dawn who is able to sign, even at a basic level, makes my mum Shirley a lot more comfortable with what’s going on.”
Having a nurse who could use sign language to communicate had meant that Ms Whiteside’s hospital experience was less confusing and intimidating, said Ms Bebbington.
“Being able to sign has made a difference to Shirley’s care because the questions in BSL are a different format and order from writing it down or just saying it like we would,” explained Ms Bebbington.
“And if she’s telling me things, I know what she’s saying, she doesn’t have to find somebody else or rely on her son Philip to translate everything for her because I can hopefully understand what she’s telling me.”
Ms Whiteside showed her gratitude to Ms Bebbington with a ‘thank you’ card.