Discussed in this paper are the problems arising with language barriers in healthcare. People of all nationalities deserve the best care from our hospitals. However, misunderstanding of different languages can put a restraint on patient care and can sometimes lead to unnecessary and life-threatening mistakes. It’s the job of teachers and employers to ensure future and current medical personnel have better resources and skills to communicate with a patient of a different language. Medical technology is growing very quickly, as should correct communication be growing with it.
Keywords: language, barriers, healthcare Language Barriers in Healthcare Introduction There are many intermixing cultures of the San Luis Valley, which makes living here truly a unique experience. Some people call the valley a “melting pot,” as different people come together to live and work. Living here has taught me the interesting principles of Spanish life including the food, music and history that they share. The people of the Spanish culture have made a large impact here in the valley, establishing their lifestyle quite well.
The clashing of different people have brought us insight to how others live, but have also brought problems concerning the language barrier, especially in health. The Issue of Language Barriers In healthcare, communication is key. It’s the sole factor in helping people get well and it’s important that communication between the doctor and the patient is clear. The San Luis Valley has a lot of great opportunities in healthcare, as its outreach to the public as increased greatly over the years.
People of all nationalities are welcomed in our hospitals, but the language barrier between English and a native language has made it difficult for physicians to do their job to its full potential. Common misconceptions of the language being spoken can have unnecessary consequences and can cause huge mistakes in the practice of medicine. In one case, a Spanish mother brought her child in after the child had “hit herself” falling off her tricycle. Unfortunately, the physician interpreted that the injury had resulted from abuse, and called Social Services on the woman to sign over custody of her children.
Cases like these are shockingly common.. Almost 50 million Americans (18. 7 percent of U. S. residents) speak a language other than English at home. Between 1990 and 2000, the number of Americans who spoke a language other than English at home grew by 15. 1 million. Problems with Interpreters The rapid growing population of other nationalities in the United States have caused our healthcare facilities to adjust to the change and invest in interpreters. Interpreters can help the physician as well as the patient commune correct information regarding the medical concerns that they have.
Fatal mistakes can be prevented by simply hiring an interpreter who can speak the patient’s language and can help the physician make the right choices towards making this person better. Although this sounds like a simple solution to misinterpreted languages, a lot of people have no access to an interpreter, and healthcare employees have little training in dealing with people of a different language. 46 percent of emergency department cases involving patients with limited English proficiency, had no interpreter present to assist the doctor in accurate information exchange.
Another problem that arises with interpreters is the patient’s concern with indirect communication with the doctor. Even with an interpreter, there is still a large chance that there could be misinformation between the doctor and patient. When there is misinformation that could endanger the patient’s life, lawsuits are used quite frequently. In patient ratings of their hospital visits, they felt more satisfied when they were able to talk to their doctor directly. Solutions
The best solution to overcoming language barriers is better training and preparedness for future student going into the medical field. While working at the Rio Grande Hospital, there were many Hispanic speaking patients, needing care right away. Fortunately, the phlebotomist I was shadowing was able to speak proficient Spanish and was able to get the correct information to the doctor. Although he was a valuable employee who was able to speak Spanish, I noticed there could definitely be better training in each department of the hospital.
These departments work a lot together and I believe having more than a few bilingual employees would greatly increase patient satisfaction and overall efficiency of the hospital. Young students in high school should realize the quickly growing intermixing of languages in the working role. Being bilingual is an excellent skill employers strive to look for, not only in the healthcare field, but everywhere else. Together we can take down the barrier of different languages and ensure that everyone, regardless of nationality, can receive the best healthcare offered.
- University of California – Irvine. (2007, November 14). Language Barriers Adversely Impact Health-care Quality. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 1, 2014 from www. sciencedaily. com/releases/2007/11/071113132304. htm
- Flores, M. D, G. (2006, July 20). The New England Journal of Medicine, Language Barriers in Healthcare. Retrieved March 1, 2014, from http://www. nejm. org/doi/full/10. 1056/NEJMp058316
- Ondash, E’Louise RN. (2008) “Overcoming Language Barriers Faced in Health Care. “Nursezone. com. Web. Retrieved March 1 2014.