Get to know: Sarah Hein ’15, opening doors in the deaf community

Sarah Hein '15 is helping deaf and hard-of-hearing students navigate healthcare education and careers.
Sarah Hein ’15 is helping deaf and hard-of-hearing students navigate healthcare education and careers.

University of Detroit Mercy alumna Sarah Hein is one of a few deaf graduates from the College of Health Professions’ McAuley School of Nursing, and she’s determined to make sure there are more like her.

It means a lot that I have paved the way for others to pursue this field at Detroit mercy,” Hein said. “I love mentoring young deaf nurses. I didn’t really have a deaf nurse who mentored me and had to figure out a lot of it on my own. So, I am happy that I have made things slightly easier for others.”

Hein graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2015 and now works as an adjunct clinical instructor at Detroit Mercy.

“I love teaching,” Hein said. It is a really rewarding thing to do. When you have a bulk of knowledge and passion for your profession, it is easy to share that with others. I also love sharing funny stories from the hospital with my patients. It shows that nursing is fun.”

Hein also serves as a mentor for current deaf nursing student Diane Bass, who decided to major in nursing in part because of Hein.

She opened the door for me, Bass said. I was very encouraged to see someone who is deaf and hard of hearing being accepted in the program. That gave me courage to try to apply and gave me hope I might get in.

“She is a hard worker and very encouraging to other deaf and hard-of-hearing nursing students,” Bass added. She is helping deaf and hard-of-hearing people accomplish their goals, as well as giving them some tips on what she struggled with and what she had been through.”

Hein, Bass and Detroit Mercy graduate Joe Samona ’16 founded Michigan Deaf Health, which helps deaf and hard-of-hearing (HOH) youth explore careers in the STEM fields and also helps spread awareness and resources to the deaf and HOH population so they have better access to healthcare.

“I hope to set up a clinic for the deaf/HOH population that is fully accessible to them, staffed with interpreters, captions on any videos, text-based programs for setting up appointments, etc.,” Hein said. “It would also be accessible for those with other disabilities as well. The deaf/HOH community has faed huge communication barriers in healthcare because of the lack of interpreters, or skilled interpreters, or just an overall communication breakdown.

“Also, many deaf people are unjustly unemployed and therefore may not have health insurance. They also do not always trust medical professionals because of the communication breakdown and may not seek medical attention. There needs to be much done to help make healthcare much more accessible for the deaf and hard-of-hearing people.”

Hein is a registered nurse at Henry Ford Health System and is working on a master’s degree in family nurse practitioner. Hein said she loves her job and getting to help people every day.

“Honestly, what I enjoy most is the patients,” Hein said. “Just talking to them and being with them makes me smile because I know I have touched them in some way. I have some grumpy patients sometimes, but after talking a while with them, I manage to get them to smile. I also truly love working as a team and collaborating with other medical professionals to find the best care possible for the patients.”

Hein said she applied to Detroit mercy because she heard good things about the smaller class sizes and the family-like atmosphere. She’s glad she did.

“I learned a lot. I was in the SDO (second-degree option) program,” said Hein, who has a bachelor degree in Brain, Behavior and Cognitive Sciences from the University of Michigan and a master’s in Neuroscience from Loyola of Chicago. “It was very fast paced and tough. I enjoyed the challenge. I was never bored.

“The students in the SDO program were a tight-knit group,” Hein added. “We ate lunch together, studied together, had class and clinical together. I liked that sense of family. It was sad when we graduated and had to part ways, but I have many memories of being with my class. I think our pinning ceremony was powerful and just summed up our career together.”

Hein also learned how to advocate for herself while at Detroit Mercy and appreciated the way professors and others worked with her.

“I worked with my professors to help them truly understand what I needed as a deaf individual,” Hein said. “I used CART (real-time captioning) to help me keep up with lectures. Professors had no idea how that worked, and I taught them. In clinical, I did not have specific accommodations, but I needed a preceptor who was willing to understand my disability and teach me. Some people see my disability and do not want to try teaching me because of that. My preceptor was extremely patient with me, helped me to advocate for myself and always asked how she could help me. This really prepared me for the outside world and getting a job.”

— By Dave Pemberton

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