Would You Hire a Deaf Nurse?

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, August 20, 2013

A nursing school boots out a deaf student over concerns that her hearing loss would limit her ability to safely perform clinical rotations. Nonsense, says the Association of Medical Professionals with Hearing Losses.

There's a moral conundrum playing out in Missouri, where nursing student Jessica Wells sued the college that booted her out of its nursing program. The reason she was ousted? She's deaf.

According to a report in the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the student, Jessica Wells, sued Cox College in Springfield, MO after the college dismissed her from its nursing program in early 2008. In its dismissal letter to Wells, the college asserted that her "hearing loss would substantially limit (and in some cases completely limit) [her] ability to safely perform clinical rotations."

Wells sued the school, and although a summary judgment initially ruled in favor of the college, the Missouri Southern District Court of Appeals overturned that ruling. A jury in a trial earlier this month sided with Wells, saying that the school should have provided reasonable accommodations for her to participate in the program.

According to the court of appeals' ruling, the school "offered nothing more than its subjective belief that the use of an ASL [American Sign Language] interpreter in the clinical setting posed a direct safety threat" and "asserts no facts related to Plaintiff's use of an ASL interpreter in her first semester of clinical rotations that would allow a fact finder to find that such a threat existed."

Alexandra Wilson Pecci

Alexandra Wilson Pecci is an editor for HealthLeaders Media.

Facebook icon
LinkedIn icon
Twitter icon