TikTok: Deaf ICU nurse’s educational videos go viral

Deaf individuals experience worse health outcomes than the general hearing population, says the National Library of Health

According to Forbes, more than “1.5 billion people worldwide are affected by hearing loss.”

In health care, it can be a continuous struggle for the hard of hearing to receive proper care. “Most medical training programs fail to adequately prepare medical staff to effectively communicate with deaf individuals,” noted the National Association of the Deaf.

One Seattle nurse is hoping to change that — one TikTok video at a time.

“I wanted to show people that it was possible for deaf people to travel, go to nursing school, like the little things,” explained Mikaela Thepvongsa — user name @NurseKaela — to Komo 4 Seattle.

Thepvongsa went to nursing school at Washington State University, where her “clinical instructor told her to drop out because she was deaf,” reported the outlet. Instead of listening to her instructor though, Thepvongsa stuck with it, and — relying on lip reading — went on to graduate.


In the ICU, many patients are unable to talk because of being intubated, sedated, trached and so forth. Even recently extubated patients will usually have difficulty speaking until they recover after a day or two. Lip reading is extremely helpful in this situation, but it’s also important for nurses to pay attention to context clues, non-verbal communication and body langauge. I know from firsthand experience what it’s like as a patient to have a language barrier and for the healthcare team to assume that I was “being stubborn, non-compliant” simply because they didn’t realize I was deaf. Because of these experiences, I’ve been very passionate about patient advocacy and helping to bridge the gap of language barriers in healthcare. #deafnurse #registerednurse #newgrad #languagebarrier #cochlearimplant #kanso2 #patientadvocacy #bedside

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Her TikTok account has more than 250,000 followers, asnd she takes to the app almost daily to share insights into the world of health care through the eyes of a deaf nurse, bringing attention to the challenges of language barriers in health care among other things.

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