The appeals ruling also said that Wells' "successful completion of the first semester while using an ASL interpreter during her clinical rotations proved the absence of any such threat."
The lawsuit and latest ruling raise question about whether a nurse with hearing loss could, in fact, safely care for patients. Would he or she be able to respond to alarms and codes? Could he or she effectively listen to patients' hearts and lungs? Could such a nurse find professional success?
The answer to those questions is yes, according to the Association of Medical Professionals with Hearing Losses (AMPHL), which provides guidance and resources for this population. The Association's website says RNs with hearing loss should be prepared to tell potential employers how they'll accomplish certain clinical functions and what accommodations they'd need to do so.
For instance, they should be ready to describe how they'll do things like assess heart, lung and bowel sounds; communicate when colleagues are wearing masks and they're unable to lip read; and handle code situations.
"Nurses in AMPHL have successfully managed all of these situations with some creative accommodations," the AMPHL website says. Such accommodations for the hearing impaired might include specially-amplified stethoscopes, pagers that beep codes that mean different things, and the use of interpreters.