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Published on October 16, 2015

Partnership provides unique opportunity for deaf colleagues

Works well in a team. Is calm in a crisis. Provides compassionate care.

deafNursing aid Colleen Jordan converses in
sign language with Yolanda Certo, left,
and Elsie and Eugene Rychlak, three of the
41 residents at the Valley View Mercy LIFE
senior care facility in Elwyn, Pa. All of Valley
View's frontline staff and patients are deaf.
Image credit: Dan Z. Johnson/©CHA

These are the skills and talents Colleen Jordan discovered—and shares—as a personal care assistant at Valley View in Elwyn. She has worked at this assisted living home for deaf seniors for more than 10 years. Now she’s taking her skills to the next level.

Thanks to a partnership between Mercy LIFE and Delaware County Community College (DCCC), Colleen and 12 colleagues—all of whom are deaf—have the opportunity to become certified nursing assistants (CNAs).

Partners in care

Mercy LIFE took over Valley View in 2014. And one thing was certain. “We wanted to hire the staff that was already there,” says Molly Crumley, Director of Operations at Mercy LIFE. “It would provide continuity of care. All the front-line clinical staff are deaf and speak American Sign Language. They truly enhance communication. It was the right thing to do—so there was never another thought.”

But at Mercy LIFE, all direct care professionals must be CNAs. And that meant Valley View staff needed special training.

Colleen and her colleagues were eager to learn new skills. So the Mercy LIFE team went to work to make it happen.

“We knew we needed partners to be successful,” says Anna Marshalick, Director of Education for Mercy Home Health and Mercy LIFE. And they found a great partner in DCCC. “Beatrice Agar, an executive administrator at DCCC, listened with all her heart,” Anna says. “And she didn’t say no.”

Not only did Beatrice not say no—she filled Molly’s Jeep with books to help the Valley View staff members on their journey back to school.

Other eager partners include:

  • The United Way, which is funding the program through a Healthy Aging grant 
  • The State Department of Education, which agreed to let Deaf students use electronic blood pressure cuffs that don’t require listening with a stethoscope

In July, Colleen and three others were the first from Valley View to start DCCC’s Excellence in Care program. They will finish the 133-hour program in December 2015. Then they’ll take the American Red Cross CNA test.

As Colleen studies—and keeps working at Valley View—she’s gaining confidence for her new goal. “It is like the first step toward becoming a registered nurse,” she says.

A living example

Making that step available is a living example of Mercy LIFE’s reverence for every person. “We honor our Valley View participants,” Anna says. “We respect their unique needs, so we wanted to keep this valued staff intact. We also respect the staff members and wanted to help them get the tools they needed to provide even better care.”

Colleen is excited about enhancing her skills to better care for the Valley View residents she knows so well. And she’s grateful. “I would like to thank Molly Crumley, Anna Marshalick and Beatrice Agar,” she says. “We are truly blessed to work with them.”

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