Medical Doctors’ Knowledge of Libras in the Federal District and Deaf Patient Health Care

<p></p><p>ABSTRACT In medical schools, the teaching of Brazilian Sign Language (Libras) is limited and this scenario may result in difficulties when dealing with an important portion of the population: the deaf. According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), nearly 24% of the Brazilian population has some kind of deficiency; belonging to what are known as vulnerable groups. Deafness is among the most prevalent deficiencies, and the medical practice being unable to attend a deaf patient is a public health problem that requires further discussion. The objective of the present study was to evaluate medical doctors’ knowledge of Libras and their perception of attending to a deaf patient. A crosssectional and descriptive study was designed and 101 medical doctors of the Brazilian Public Health System (Sistema Único de Saúde, SUS) were randomly chosen in the Federal District and answered a structured survey. We interviewed medical doctors with a mean age of 41 years from 24 different medical specialties. 92.1% of them had seen at least one deaf patient in their clinical practice. 76.2% of them considered the knowledge of Libras relevant to their practice, but only one declared basic knowledge of the language. Most of the medical doctors reported uncertainty and discomfort when attending a deaf patient. A significant number of doctors had already seen a deaf patient in their clinical practice, and most considered the knowledge of Libras important, especially those under the age of 55 years. The feeling of discomfort when dealing with a deaf patient possibly arises from not knowing Libras and being unable to communicate with the patient properly. We emphasize the importance of learning Libras before or during medical school and other health-related courses. Being aware that the deaf patient deserves full health assistance is fundamental, and it may improve specialized learning of Libras and consequently result in a better doctor-patient relationship.</p><p></p>