Thu, 21 Jun 2018 18:12:16 +0000When I decided to become a Doctor, my aim was to serve others, and I’m sure that this is the main goal for nurses, doctors and paramedics when choosing their profession. For this reason, we must consider that being a patient, either in an emergency, or on a routine doctor’s appointment, is always…
When I decided to become a Doctor, my aim was to serve others, and I’m sure that this is the main goal for nurses, doctors and paramedics when choosing their profession. For this reason, we must consider that being a patient, either in an emergency, or on a routine doctor’s appointment, is always a stressful event.
You are in an unfamiliar environment and you worry about your ailment and the diagnosis, and worst of all you don’t speak the language. Your stress level goes sky high.
An effective communication channel is essential for the doctors and nurses to identify the nature of an illness, explain It to the patient and family and establish the adequate treatment. The first step in this sequence is always to listen to the patients first. They are the ones to give you the clues. But, what happens when the patient does not speak the mainstream language?
When I was working at Medica Sur (a private hospital in Mexico City), I’ve been requested a few time by my fellow Doctors to help bridge the gap of communication because the patient who just arrived was a foreigner speaking only either English or French. Each time I started talking to the patient in their mother tongue, I could see relief in their faces, and how they felt in good hands.
With some nurses of the afternoon shift
Doctors and nurses have the most contact with patients and it would be a valuable skill if they could communicate with them in their language.
As the number of non-English speaking population is on the rise in the UK and the USA, there is a surge in the demand for multilingual Healthcare professionals. In the USA almost 40 million people speak Spanish, which accounts for 17% of the US population (2015), and it is the second most commonly spoken language.
In the UK, in the 2011 census there were 138,000 people in England and Wales who could not speak any English. I’m sure this number is much more by now. Each time one of these people use the healthcare system, they will need a translator whose cost will have to be absorbed by the NHS (UK free healthcare system).
Sometimes the translations provided by the interpreters are not accurate, leading in occasions to mis-diagnosis.
On the other hand, it becomes harder for the patient to tell their personal experience to a third party, in a sense braking the intimacy which exists between doctor and patient.
Your patients will be extremely grateful if you are multilingual. You will be able to build a relationship with them, and they will be more open to discuss sensitive issues.
It would be great if you can immerse yourself in the culture and language of the minorities living in your country. I know it can be difficult being in medical school, or working as a nurse or a doctor, and find extra time to learn a language. But it is feasible. I know it from experience. Online courses could be helpful because you can study whenever you have a free moment.
When dealing with patients, if you feel insecure to use your knowledge in the second language, you can still ask for an interpreter. Always bear in mind your main purpose which is the concern about your patient’s welfare.
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