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Salford student becomes first deaf male nurse

Oct 07, 2009

A student from the University has become the first deaf male nurse to enter the nursing register using British Sign Language (BSL) as his first language.

Andrew Maxim graduated from the School of Nursing and Midwifery this September with a Diploma in Mental Health Nursing - only the tenth deaf nursing graduate nationally.

It was not until 2003 that the first deaf person qualified as a nurse; before 1999 deaf students were not able to study nursing because of the lack of learning and teaching support within universities.

One of the biggest challenges deaf people face is a lack of interpreters in practice as well as at university. Deaf people need to use sign language and lip-reading skills to access the information crucial to their work.

At Salford, Andrew had two interpreters during lectures, a scribe, and access to a personal tutor with experience in deaf services and sign language skills.

"I found the teaching environment very supportive," said Andrew, aged 37. "Being able to communicate in my first language made meetings clearer and easier."

Andrew has been completely deaf since the age of two, when he suffered from meningitis and lost his hearing, but he did not begin learning BSL until he was 17. At home and during lessons at school he would lip read.

"Neither my parents nor my brother sign, but I am able to communicate well with them. My brother and I developed our own methods of communication as children and continue to do so!"

After school he spent 11 years working as an engineer before he realised his passion for working with other deaf people and decided on a change of career.

He will soon begin working as a staff nurse at the John Denmark Unit - the National Centre for Mental Health and Deafness, at Prestwich Hospital, which he says he is thrilled about.

He added: "To other people who are considering a university course - both deaf and hearing, I would say do it. It's never too late for a career change and it's been the best thing that has happened to me."

Andrew's personal tutor, Naomi Sharples, also Director of Mental Health and Learning Disability Nursing, said his achievement is remarkable. "Andrew was a very calm and focused student - we were fortunate to have him on board.

"He had good rapport with his fellow hearing students, tutors, colleagues as well as clients. He is a sensitive and committed nurse who will be an asset to the team at the John Denmark Unit and to the deaf community."