Orpington Hospital go extra mile to welcome new colleague

19 December 2019 - The Patient Records Team learnt sign language to communicate with deaf staff member

Andrew (centre) with members of the Patient Records Team

Members of staff from the Patient Records Team at Orpington Hospital have undertaken a British Sign Language course to communicate with a deaf member of staff who joined their team.

In total, eight members of the Patient Records Team signed up for the course, taking time out of their own day to complete the programme, to welcome new team member Andrew Martin.

Andrew initially started on a work experience placement for two weeks at the Princess Royal University Hospital (PRUH), and then continued on a voluntary basis twice a week. Manager of patient records, Angela Horton, said, “Andrew fitted in very well so when a vacancy came up at Orpington Hospital he applied and was successful.” Andrew now works full time in the Patient Records Team.

Andrew has an interpreter who helps him communicate but the team felt in order to integrate and involve him more they wanted to learn some sign language. Andrew said, “It has made it a lot easier to socialise. My translator and I work together with the team so that when she’s not there I feel more confident and independent.”

The course, which focuses on teaching British Sign Language (BSL), started off by teaching the team the alphabet and has since progressed onto key words and phrases they use at work. Russell Burns, Andrew’s colleague, said they need to use the interpreter less and less now because of the course, “she just sits back and lets us get on with it,” he added.

Staff believe the course has positively impacted the whole team and not just Andrew, as it has enabled them to bond.

Kimberley Webb, another member of the team, said “most of us don’t know what it’s like not being able to communicate, so it’s just something we felt we needed to do.”

Angela also noted that investing in this course has meant Andrew has “gone from strength to strength”. She added, “We’re an inclusive organisation and our workforce reflects the diverse patient population we serve.

“I’m very proud that the Patient Records Team has gone above and beyond what is expected of them to ensure Andrew can enjoy the camaraderie at work that many of us take for granted.”
The team have continued with the sign language course in order to build on their BSL skills and Andrew says “I want to help them improve their skills now, by adding things such as facial expression.”

The team recently won an award at the Trust’s annual staff recognition service, King’s Stars, for their commitment, support and enthusiasm to welcoming Andrew, helping him settle into his first job, and for embodying the Trust’s values.


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Karen Welsh
Head of Communications
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