Meet: Geraldine Rooney, who defied the odds (and her lecturer) to become a deaf nurse

Posted on December 10, 2014

Last year, Geraldine Rooney hit the headlines when she achieved her dream of becoming a nurse twenty years after being told it wouldn’t be possible. Below is an extract from that article, and our interview with her about her life and career.


A mum-of-three who was told her deafness would make it impossible for her to become a nurse has finally landed her dream job – 20 years after her hopes were dashed.

At the age of 17, Geraldine Rooney, now 37, from Redcar, was told the career she had craved from the age of three was over before it had even begun.

Despite passing all the necessary qualifications to allow her to apply for a place on a nursing course, it was made clear her deafness was a stumbling block.

But five years ago, after learning deafness was no longer a barrier to becoming a nurse, she enrolled on an access course at Teesside University – and has now landed her first job as a registered nurse on James Cook’s gastroenterology ward.

Hi Geraldine! What are the challenges of being a deaf nurse?

Ward rounds, accents, moustaches, people covering their mouths and doctors talking with their back to you!

Awareness is the key. I actually wear my hair with my hearing aid visible and do tell people that I lipread.

Ward rounds I find most challenging as doctors tend to, obviously, talk to the patients and not at me, so I position myself so I can see clearly, which sometimes means standing right beside the consultant.

When did you first decide to become a nurse?

My mam recalls I’ve always wanted to be a nurse. I was very premature (which resulted in my hearing loss) and was quite a sickly child in and out of hospital a lot during my childhood.

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On leaving school I enrolled at college on a two year pre-nursing course. You have to be 17 and a half to start nurse training and this was a stop gap until I reached that age.

However, in my final few months of the course the tutor did not give me a university enrolment form, telling me she wasn’t sure I could become a nurse.

I went to occupational health where a sister told me ” sorry you can’t become a nurse,” and that was that. She didn’t suggest any other avenues.

What did you do then?

I enquired about applying for a role as a health care assistant. I was told that a scheme was available (NVQ) but I didn’t qualify as I hadn’t been unemployed for 3 months.

So I put myself on the dole for 3 months and got a placement on a stroke unit for an extra ten pounds a week. I had to get two buses there and back which cost more than the extra tenner!

But I secured employment on the stroke unit and stayed 18 years!

What made you determined not to give up?

I had a dream.

What were the biggest obstacles?

As told earlier, many obstacles stood in my way. Even at university a lecturer asked how could I possibly become a nurse when I couldn’t even do a manual blood pressure. This was just 6 weeks before I was due to qualify.

I had not been provided with an amplified stethoscope and when I informed the head of nurse lecturer I had one the next day.

The lecturer had stated that he couldn’t sign me off! I did however give him a wink at my graduation!

How did it feel when you finally made it?

Amazing and elated. It had been a long bumpy road.

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