I was very fortunate to be awarded an Iolanthe Midwifery Trust award to pay towards studying British Sign Language. I wanted to learn BSL as I wanted to have an additional way to communicate with women and their families. Communication is such a vital skill within midwifery practice, and I believe this is particularly true for women who may be more vulnerable.
Deaf women can experience social exclusion and isolation during their pregnancy and early parenting years. They can also face barriers in accessing services.
With my award I was able to study level 2 BSL and I have been able to use my new language skills within practice. I have loved learning a new language and I feel that it is an excellent complement to my midwifery training. I have also taught some basic signs to my fellow students as I believe the little things, like being able to introduce yourself, can go a long way to making someone feel more comfortable and feel more open to communication. My lecturers kindly offered me a slot within the busy timetable to teach the first year students, their enthusiasm was infectious! I hope I have inspired more students to consider learning BSL.
Within practice I found that interpreter services for inpatients were often only available during visitor hours, which meant that if the woman had any concerns through the night it was difficult to express them. This can be quite problematic for women who may be going through the induction process, or are in hospital with any medical conditions during pregnancy. Anxiety levels will be high enough without the added anxiety of not being understood.
With the Scottish National Plan for BSL being rolled out across all public bodies in Scotland within the next three years, I hope more funding becomes available for NHS staff to learn BSL.
I am incredibly grateful to the Iolanthe Trust for my award, and helping me to broaden and improve my practice.