Dionne Jaques: Overcoming Hardship by Finding Her Own Way
Dionne Jaques’ Journey to Achieving Her Dreams
If you speak to Dionne Jaques, she won’t be able to hear you.
That’s because Dionne is profoundly deaf. She can’t hear anything quieter than a lawn mower’s roar.
Dionne is on the nursing faculty of Nightingale College—and is earning her BS to MSN Ed degree with Nightingale—and it’s currently the perfect place for her as a profoundly deaf collaborator and learner. But her journey to Nightingale and nursing was far from smooth.
When she was two, Dionne’s parents noticed she wasn’t responding like a hearing child would, and she was subsequently diagnosed as profoundly deaf. It took her parents a little longer than usual to establish she was deaf, and by that point she was already learning to read lips to understand what was going on around her.
Dionne was already becoming an expert at adapting to her environment.
Throughout her childhood, Dionne’s parents helped her to adapt to living in a hearing world with many speech therapy appointments at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City.
Despite her adaptability to the hearing world, school was difficult for Dionne. She didn’t get training in ASL or accommodations for her deafness. To learn in school, she would have to sit in the front of the classroom and read the teachers’ lips to get anything from a lesson. This of course didn’t work very well, as teachers would turn away while talking; and without proper accommodations, Dionne got poor grades all throughout her childhood years.
This led Dionne to assume she just wasn’t smart enough for school—that she wasn’t good at learning. In her junior year of high school, Dionne dropped out of school, pregnant with her first child. And with that, she assumed that was the end of her education.
Dionne married, had five beautiful children, and taught herself sign language through a mix of friends’ help and the internet. Then in the span of several weeks she gave birth to her fifth child, lost her mother after a long, difficult battle with cancer, and her husband left her two days after her mother’s funeral.
Her time as caretaker for her mother’s battle with cancer had led her to a desire to care for others as well. With no job and no education and needing some way to take care of her five children, Dionne decided she wanted to return to school and become a nurse.
Everyone (including her dad and the college admissions team) told her that she couldn’t become a nurse because she was deaf, but she insisted that was what she wanted, and that is exactly what she did.
Through a combination of sheer grit and accommodations—such as an ASL translator and a note taker for classes—Dionne landed herself on the Dean’s list and graduated with her licensed practical nurse certificate, and she was thrilled! She’d proven to herself and everyone around her that despite needing accommodations, she was fully capable of accomplishing everything she set her mind to.
At that point, Dionne decided to take a break from school and work as an LPN so she could support her family and care for her children (the youngest of whom was medically fragile and on a feeding tube for her first six years).
When her children were grown and raised, Dionne decided to go back to school. One inspiration for her to return was her eldest daughter, who had gotten her own BSN. With a supportive staff cheering her on, and a learning model designed to support people like Dionne, Nightingale helped her achieve her dreams.
Nightingale enabled Dionne in a way she hadn’t been before, shifting her self-perception from someone not smart enough to make it through high school and too long out of school to get back to her degree to someone who earned both her RN and BSN degrees, and was Valedictorian both times on top of that!
With her degree from Nightingale, Dionne continued to show the world that, with good access and accommodations, anything is possible by practicing her career in one of the most beautiful places on earth for a year and a half before COVID-19 shut everything down—Maui, Hawaii.
When COVID-19 forced everyone to wear masks to prevent the spread of the disease, Dionne felt completely at sea. Because she communicated with hearing people by lip-reading, she says she felt “newly deaf.”
But, when life threw what looked like another roadblock into Dionne’s path, she turned it into another opportunity. While she was struggling with communicating with her patients in Maui, two of her children were struggling in Utah, and finally reached out to ask her for help.
“I decided ‘me time’ was over and moved back to Utah.” Dionne said.
And Nightingale became part of Dionne’s journey again.
Because Nightingale is an online college (and had moved to completely online when COVID-19 changed the way the world worked), Dionne is able to be a teacher at Nightingale without any of the problems she had working in person as an RN in Maui. Nightingale’s learning model is ideal for someone like Dionne, who can teach and learn in an environment that’s comfortable for her, giving her the access she needs. And while she’s teaching at Nightingale, she is also earning her BSN to MSN Ed degree with the college, enabling Dionne to one day teach classes in the BSN program.
Through Nightingale, Dionne was able to have the flexibility and accommodations she needed to not only prove to herself and those around her that she is capable of big things, but to accomplish her dreams and help her family when they needed it.
And one day, Dionne has promised herself that she will eventually return to Maui and live and work in paradise again.