Communication is so important. That’s why Monday evening was a proud day in my life.

Twenty hospital staff gathered after their 10-week course in British Sign Language. They had passed, and it was now time for their certificates.

I thought back to the first of our lessons two-and-a-half months ago when, with trepidation, staff turned up to the start the course knowing little or nothing about BSL. I stood and admired the transformation; now they could give basic information and directions; and had a decent vocabulary.

But in case you think that this is just an academic exercise, think again. In the space of that time, at least three of the participants have communicated with deaf patients or relatives.

This involved greeting them, giving directions, or asking how they are. So Lauren, who directed a patient to their appointment, said: “it was amazing to be able to use what I had learnt in class, and in real life to make a difference to this patient;” Kate managed to communicate with a patient putting them at ease in their appointment; and Nicky had a deaf patient on her ward for a number of days and was able to talk about family, food, and the normal stuff of life.

Obviously, none of this takes away from the role of the trained interpreters who communicate important medical information and which are provided by our friends at Deaf Direct.

But it can set the tone for someone’s stay in hospital. Just imagine how much better you would feel if you turned up and someone made you feel at home in your own language. At the presentation we were joined by two members of the executive team, Richard Haynes and our Chief Nurse Vicky Morris – a marker of how important this initiative of teaching sign language to staff is to our hospitals.

They both paid tribute to the staff on the course for their commitment.

Bear in mind that all of these staff had probably done their full day’s work and then turned up to the course.

But they also said how much they valued the desire of staff to make a difference to deaf patients.

And during the presentation of the certificates, it became obvious to me just how much this meant to the course members; and just how much difference it has the potential to make for deaf patients and relatives who come into our hospitals. After all, that is what it is all about; having a go; trying to enter someone else’s world; being willing to go out on a limb and even look silly (something which I have done many times) to say: “You matter and your culture matters.”

So credit goes to Steve Hartman our BSL tutor; those charities who have given money to allow this course to happen; and, of course, the wonderful staff who had tried something new, challenged themselves, and come out the other end with a new skill that will make a difference.