Born without one of her five senses, Bethany Baker isn’t letting her disability get in the way of achieving her goals.
Coming from a family of nurses, Baker is the first deaf student to be admitted to the University of North Florida’s (UNF) School of Nursing. She says every woman on her mother’s side is deaf in one ear, but she was the first in her family to be born fully deaf.
“When I was about 6 months old, my dad tried to scare me and expected a reaction, but I didn’t have that,” Baker said.
She began learning sign language shortly after her parents found out she was deaf.
“They were taking classes to learn sign, they could teach me,” Baker said.
She attended the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind. Shortly after graduating, she aspired to pursue a career in the medical field.
“People really look up to their nurses," Baker said. "People really have connections through their pain and their suffering and all of their sicknesses, their fears. I really like to be that person for some other people out there.”
Baker says her deafness originally kept her from imagining a career in nursing for herself. Now, she’s a 27-year-old student, working toward a post-baccalaureate degree in nursing.
As you can imagine, being the first of anything comes with a lot of pressure.
“I feel honored and at the same time overwhelmed,” Baker said. “I really feel I have to do the best that I can, to make me or to make all of the other deaf students feel good.”
Using an app on her phone, she’s able to do a series of things. For example, it pairs with her stethoscope and allows her to see the visual of the heartbeat.
Nursing professor, Dr. Judy Comeaux, says it’s a joy having Baker in the classroom for herself and students.
“She’s pushing them to see that ‘wow, I really can do this.’ There’s no reason I can do it,” Comeaux said. “I think it is making an impact on the students with whom she’s working, just to make them want to strive to be better.”
Baker’s nursing experience has taught her how to communicate with patients in different ways, which is why she’s so committed to breaking the stigma.
“I want the deaf community to be able do anything I want, not be limited to working in deaf education, or teaching ASL," she said. "I want them to do much more than that.”
Baker is currently completing her clinical rounds at Flagler Hospital. She says she’ll always be an advocate for the deaf community while setting new standards in the medical field.