MMC staff member uses sign language to help bridge communication gap with patient
Bayfield local and Bethel University student, Bridger Foster recently had a positive experience using American Sign Language at Memorial Medical Center after having his tonsils removed in July 2020.
While in recovery, Bridger found it difficult to speak due to his healing throat. “It was just really difficult to talk, and since I studied American Sign Language (ASL) at university, I thought maybe someone at the hospital could communicate with me,” he said.
Registered nurse, Mary Kiggins was just the one to help. She has a relative with a hearing issue and already knew basic ASL that would be helpful with Bridger.
“We were able to talk about his pain and ways to manage it,” Mary said. “It was really neat to make that communication connection and to see how ASL can be helpful even in situations where there isn’t a hearing issue.”
Bridger is currently in a nursing program with hopes of becoming a physician assistant. His dream is to work with global health organizations around the world and says he sees the benefit of learning ASL. “Even on a basic level, it’s incredible the impact you can have on a person’s life,” he said. “I think it’s a great idea to learn it – especially if you’re in the medical field because you can really make a difference for someone.”
Bridger and Mary reconnected at the hospital about a month after his procedure where he thanked her for offering to communicate in a way that was most helpful to him. “All of the staff were so wonderful at MMC and having Mary there to bridge the communication gap made my experience at the hospital really great.”
There are many free ASL courses available online, and WITC offers ASL as a course for those already enrolled at the school.