Engagement of dietetic students and students with hearing loss: Experiences and perceptions of both groups
African Journal of Health Professions Education
Research When referring to the audiological condition of deafened individuals, 'deaf ' is used. An uppercase D is used when writing about Deaf Culture, a group with which many prelingually deaf individuals affiliate themselves. Culturally Deaf individuals have their own language, specific customs and ways of behaving.  The deaf and persons with hearing loss (D/HL) are a minority group worldwide that faces challenges to achieve optimal health owing to various factors,     such as
... nequities in accessing healthcare, low reading levels, writing levels that often do not exceed those of 6th-grade English pupils, [3, 5] not understanding health-related terminology, with a resultant inability to interpret written prescriptions,  missed appointments and misunderstood diagnoses.  D/HL find the attitude of healthcare professionals (HCPs) patronising, creating a barrier between them and HCPs in general. Due to poor communication, there is very little transfer of information, leading to inaccurate interpretations by D/HL, which may negatively affect health outcomes. [1, 2, 5] There is a need to educate HCPs about the unique problems faced by D/HL, [2, 4] as even well-educated deaf individuals may have difficulty understanding written English. Mastering of basic sign language by HCPs could help to build trust during consultations, as the use of interpreters could lead to fear of being judged by the interpreters  and has the potential of breaching confidentiality  and privacy. Enhancing these communication skills among HCPs will comply with the development of professional competencies that extend beyond disciplinary expertise or technical knowledge, such as those of communicator, collaborator, scholar, health advocate, manager and leader.  The Rural Clinical School (RCS) of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) of Stellenbosch University (SU) is based in Worcester, Western Cape Province, South Africa (SA). The RCS provides students from FMHS with exposure to rural community health, allowing for reallife experiences during their placement at the RCS and rendering services in a rural community setting.  It further promotes community-orientated education and training through engagement of students via a multitude of learning activities in under-served areas.  Final-year dietetic students complete a 6-week rotation at the RCS as part of their internship, thereby providing services at various facilities in the Worcester district. RCS facilitators affiliated to the Division of Human Nutrition, SU, have fostered relationships with several community partners (Box 1). One of these partners is the National Institute for the Deaf (NID), a private training institution registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) that caters for specific training needs of deaf students. The NID offers hospitality courses, one of which is Professional Cookery (PC). The main aim of these courses is to increase employability of these special needs students.  The NID employs a multidisciplinary approach to their teaching to meet the diverse needs of their students.  'Deaf students are not simply hearing students who cannot hear' ,  is a message continually emphasised by numerous researchers in the field of D/HL education. [1, 2, 5,    The literature reports that the cognitive functioning of D/HL differs Background. Final-year dietetic students from Stellenbosch University (SU) present selected training sessions during their Rural Clinical School (RCS) rotation to professional cookery students of the National Institute for the Deaf (NID). Objective. To describe experiences and perceptions of dietetic students and NID students before and after training sessions. Methods. A descriptive, phenomenological approach was followed. SU students (N=23) reflected on experiences before and after providing training to NID students. Two focus group discussions were conducted with NID students (N=19) after training to explore their experiences related to the training. An experienced interpreter facilitated discussion topics using South African Sign Language (SASL). Voice recordings were transcribed verbatim and thematic content analysis was performed manually. Results. NID students described feelings of uncertainty and fear of the unknown prior to the training. These feelings turned to excitement and curiosity as the presentations continued. They were positive about the learning experience and described it as wonderful and interesting. SU students described it as challenging, but valuable in gaining insight into living with deafness. The experience positively influenced their professional and personal development. Students were appreciative of and grateful for the opportunity to engage with and learn from each other. Suggestions were made to improve future training sessions based on identified barriers, such as overcoming communication challenges and clarifying reciprocal misperceptions. Perceptions changed when similarities between student groups were realised. Conclusion. The overwhelmingly positive experience of both groups is a strong motivation to continue with this initiative. SU students recognised the importance of health promotion to persons with impairments. This open-access article is distributed under Creative Commons licence CC-BY-NC 4.0.