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Nurse Manager Excels Despite Hearing Loss

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, August 18, 2010
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Just before she was about to graduate from nursing school, a career counselor told Lynne Petree to face the facts: She would never be anything more than a school nurse. Months later, Petree, who has 3% hearing, called the counselor from the pediatric intensive care unit where she worked and told her to encourage students, rather than limit them. Petree is now the nurse manager at Heartland Surgical Specialty Hospital in Overland Park, KS. She oversees a staff of 40 and communicates by reading lips, speaking, e-mailing, and texting. She’s had to overcome many challenges to attain her position, but Petree thinks she’s a better nurse for it. 

On why she became a nurse: I had always hoped to enter the nursing field. Most girls my age growing up wanted to be either a nurse or a teacher, but since blood and guts didn’t bother me, I had my heart set on nursing. I feel that because I grew up unable to hear, I have a lot of empathy for the needs of others.

On challenges in nursing school: The only real obstacles I faced in nursing school were things like using my stethoscope to hear blood pressures, breath and bowel sounds, etc., and the attitudes of certain individuals. The thing that I found most challenging was proving to the nursing school staff that I could find an alternate way of doing things effectively and “as good as everyone else.”  For example, I use a special stethoscope and I developed ways of feeling sounds through vibrations.

On how deafness has made her a better nurse: I am very aware with my eyes and other senses. A large part of lip reading is watching body language, so this has definitely enhanced my nursing assessment skills.  I’m sure there are times when the ability to hear wouldn’t hurt, but I am thankful, however, that my peers and coworkers have been extremely supportive and helpful.

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