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Health Care and Language Skills

February 27th, 2011

skills-for-health-care-providers.jpgWhen considering learning an additional language to potentially enhance your personal marketability for employment, health care is definitely a field to consider. There are many good reasons that a person with multiple language skills is desirable in a health care setting. From routine care to emergency situations, a multi-lingual person can be a critical component in providing quality care to a patient.

With the ever changing cultural fabric of our country, it is very common to encounter people who are not fluent in the English language or do not speak it at all. While a language barrier may be inconvenient in some circumstances, it can become critical if a person requires medical treatment and they are unable to understand or convey information to a health care provider. The problem becomes even more urgent if that particular person is involved in an emergency situation that requires them to make an unscheduled trip to the hospital, and there are no friends or family around to help with translation. This is an example of where a multi-lingual person could be of great benefit to both the patient and the health care provider.

A multi-lingual person working in health care learns medical terminology in English, and will be able to interpret between the doctor and the patient. This is extremely helpful, as the physician will not need to think of words or phrases to attempt to make the information easier for the non-English speaking person to understand. Conversely, accurate translation obviates the need for the patient to make repeated attempts to get his or her messages across, potentially wasting precious time that could be better utilized for treatment. Certain information, such as past medical history or allergies to medication, is critical to know for proper care of a patient. It is imperative that this information is correct and understood. Also it may be potentially less stressful to the patients if they have a better understanding of what is happening to them.

Emergency care is not the only scenario where a multi-lingual person can be of benefit to the patient in the health care environment. Routine testing that we often take for granted can require a bit of explanation so that patients will have a clear understanding of what is expected of them, as well as what they are going to experience during the test. The simple act of breath holding may seem routine, but not being able to accurately instruct a person when to breathe or not can have a negative impact on the quality of a testing procedure. Families want to be updated as to the status of their loved ones, and they may not speak English very well either. A person who speaks their language as well as English is helpful in this situation too.

No matter what profession in health care that you choose, your language skills will benefit patients. A doctor, nurse, radiological or laboratory technician all learn medical terminology. When you combine that knowledge with multiple language skills, you certainly increase your employment potential. While CT Technologists may not completely understand nursing, they can still be called to a care floor to interpret between a nurse and a patient. Conversely a nurse can be asked to go to the CT department to help explain the test to a patient. An employer can keep a list of who in the hospital speaks what language, or they can simply voice page a person with a specific language skill to an area where they are needed. In either case, your skills in different languages will have a positive effect on the patients and their care.

Some people come to this country specifically for health related reasons. Others may be here just for a visit, but end up at the hospital due to an unforeseen accident or illness. In either case, a multi-lingual person is very useful and desirable in a health care setting.


This article on language skills in health care was supplied by Jeffrey Semich from Constant Content.


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