• Hearing Impairment Doesn’t Deter Communication for Jesse Crowson

 Hearing impairment doesn't deter communication for Jesse Crowson

Left to right are Karen Hill, Jesse Crowson, Judy Donahue and Joan Garmers — all of Linen and Central Service.

Technology, flexibility and a great team all help Jesse Crowson, Linen and Central Services, feel at home in his job as a linen handler at Mayo Clinic.

Crowson, who is hearing impaired, delivers sterile linens to 16 buildings on Mayo Clinic’s downtown campus. He communicates with his team via email, texts, notes, signing with a colleague and via a sign language interpreter.

“I can’t say enough good things about him,” says Crowson’s supervisor Judy Donahue, Linen and Central Services. “He’s dependable. He does his job. And, if he has questions, he asks.”

Crowson applied for the position at Mayo Clinic 11 years ago. He connected with Human Resources via Minnesota Relay, a free telecommunications service that enables persons with hearing or speech disabilities to place and receive telephone calls. Sheila Finley, Human Resources, used the same service to contact Crowson, set up the interview and let him know that a sign language interpreter would be present.

“We’re happy to provide accommodation for a smooth interview,” says Finley. “It allows all qualified candidates to compete for the positions. In Jesse’s case, with his long track record here, the right person did get the job.”

Crowson was hired as one of about two dozen linen handlers working the night shift. They cover about 2,600 rooms a night, removing dirty laundry and restocking clean linens. With a set route every evening, Crowson worked independently, and communication wasn’t a major obstacle.

He switched to days 9½ years ago, and now regularly encounters patients, his co-workers and other Mayo Clinic employees. That’s when Crowson and his team showed their flexibility with communications.

Donahue brings in sign language interpreters for team meetings and even social events — a strategy that Crowson greatly appreciates. She texts updates to Crowson during the day as new linen requests come in. In person, writing quick notes works in most situations.

But, Crowson’s colleague Joan Garmers, Linen and Central Services, wanted a better way to communicate. A sewing machine operator, she needed to talk with Crowson daily about lab coat deliveries. Notes and the teletypewriter (TTY) device were cumbersome.

“I pulled up the sign language alphabet on the Internet, and he put up with me going slow to learn,” she says. “Jesse started showing me signs for quick phases, and it got a lot easier. When I spell something wrong, he would just laugh and show me the right way. It’s a good thing he’s a patient person.”

Communicating throughout his workday usually works smoothly, too. Crowson, who describes himself as friendly and quick to smile, says patients sometimes approach him, asking for directions. “When they show me their appointment schedule, I walk with them,” says Crowson via email. “Or, I walk them to a sign for the building.”

Crowson is happy in his job. He says that Mayo staff are friendly and provide the help he occasionally needs to find an out-of-the way room on his delivery route. And, he enjoys his colleagues in Linens and Central Services.

Via sign language, Garmers and Crowson chitchat about typical work topics — computer questions, meetings or benefits. This summer, Garmers heard updates on wedding plans and house hunting. Crowson and his wife, Stacy, were married in July and just bought a home in Byron, Minn.

Says Garmers, “Everybody is different. Just because Jesse doesn’t hear doesn’t mean we can’t communicate.”

To further support patients, employees and their family members with visible and invisible disabilities, Mayo employees are forming a new Mayo Employee Resource Group to provide resources, support and education. Those interested in participating in the group can email the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

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