Kent State College of Nursing Collaborates With ASL/English Interpreting Program

Medical professionals treat a wide variety of people. But what do they do when they encounter a communication barrier? What if the patient only speaks French or Spanish or American Sign Language? Kent State nursing students are learning how to navigate that situation.

Kent State University’s College of Nursing works to provide real-world experiences for their students. Through a collaboration with the American Sign Language/English Interpreting program, the nursing students were given a unique simulated opportunity to treat a baby whose parent was deaf. The simulation is a valuable opportunity to expose the students to the Deaf community and help them better provide care to people with a communication barrier.

­­­­Jennifer Shanholtzer, M.S.N., RN and the nursing simulation coordinator, appreciates that the ASL/English Interpreting program is willing to take the time to interact with her students.

“Both College of Nursing students and the ASL/English Interpreting program students benefit from this experience,” says Mrs. Shanholtzer. “Each is practicing as they would in a healthcare setting, thus, providing authentic experiences that they will undoubtedly see in practice. Simulation is valuable to our students because it provides them with an opportunity to practice their skills, pairing class content to actual nursing practice, in a safe environment. We can also slow down the experience by stopping and discussing what happened.”

This collaboration provides valuable diversity experience for students in both groups.

“The ASL/ English interpreting program faculty approached the College of Nursing and were very eager to provide authentic experiences to their students. The ASL/English interpreting students are very grateful for the opportunity to practice their art,” says Mrs. Shanholtzer. “Pediatric nursing faculty have welcomed the opportunity for students to practice caring for diverse populations.”

The simulation included members of the deaf community who volunteered their time to help give the nursing students the most realistic simulation possible.

“The ASL/English interpreting program had two deaf community volunteers for the simulation, Neb Mamay and Farah Leland. This feedback is invaluable to all participating students,” says Mrs. Shanholtzer. “Discussing and understanding a communication barrier through the lens of the actual person is something students and practitioners will not be able to do in future healthcare interactions.”

Farah Kish-Leland, an ASL instructor at KSU who also teaches ASL at the high-school level and who is, herself, a member of the deaf community, was ready to interact with the students as a part of the simulation. She is passionate about educating students how to properly approach deaf people, what to look for and how to provide services to fulfill communication needs from a parent’s perspective. Mrs. Kish-Leland says she knows that nursing students need to experience taking care of a deaf patient and is pleased Kent State is providing this opportunity.

“We deaf people have a language we use daily in ASL and it is quite effective,” says Mrs. Kish-Leland.  “We want to make sure places know how to communicate best with us, and it's often not in the way they might think. For example, several deaf people are fighting with several hospitals providing VRI (video relay interpreting), which is commonly unreliable in exchanging conversations between the deaf patient, nurses and the doctor.”

Tehya Morgan, a student interpreter, says Kent State is a great place for students to learn in a safe space.

“Being able to ask questions or feel out the uncomfortable tension that they might have or make mistakes and be able to learn from those, I think, is the most valuable thing,” says Ms. Morgan. “When the nurses go into that field, they will have that knowledge and be able to build on that confidence.”

Ms. Morgan knows this simulation is helping her learn, and she appreciates the supportive environment since medical interpreting can be a challenge.

“When I am in the real world working, I will know what people respond best to and what does or doesn't work in terms of explanation,” says Ms. Morgan. “Interpreting for the nursing students can be a challenge because of the terms and phrases they use. Medical professionals have a lot of intense jargon.”

ASL Interpreting students learn from real-life application of their skills, which is why this simulation is so helpful to them.

Dr. Jamie McCartney, CI, CT, NIC-M,  the program coordinator for ASL/ English Interpreting, loves being able to have this opportunity for the students in the ASL/English Interpreting program.

“Compared to other interpreting programs in Ohio and around the country, these authentic collaborations are hard to find, if at all,” says Dr. McCartney. “Departments around Kent State have really ramped up their willingness to collaborate, and it provides interpreting students with authentic experiences.”

Kent State is seen as a great place to collaborate for the ASL/English Interpreting students.

“Professors at Kent State see themselves as part of a larger learning community and not siloed. This attitude makes collaborations successful and infects students with openness to learning outside of their field,” says Dr. McCartney. “Our external collaborations provide opportunities for our students to engage with the larger deaf community and produce interpretations in authentic situations.”

This symbiotic collaboration is a learning experience for everyone, Dr. McCartney says. It is why the ASEI program is looking to incorporate more collaborations with other groups and colleges on campus; they benefit a lot from these real-life applications. “The American Sign Language/English Interpreting faculty (ASEI) and Nursing faculty hope to continue developing this collaboration and spreading the word through publications and workshops,” says Dr. McCartney. “Students from both majors have an opportunity to debrief with each other and the deaf participants, so there is a beneficial exchange of perspectives and experiences.”

This relationship and collaboration benefits both the nursing and the interpreting students. Both groups experience hands-on learning and are able to expand on their skills before graduating from Kent State. And everyone agrees that all of this benefits the deaf community, who get to step in, express themselves to students and change the narrative about being deaf.

To learn more about the Kent State Nursing program, go to:

To learn more about the ASL Interpreting Program, go to:




POSTED: Friday, September 28, 2018 11:49 AM
UPDATED: Sunday, July 21, 2024 05:58 PM
Audra Gormley