Language Learning and Multilingualism in Healthcare

Even though English is considered a global language, not many have the opportunity to learn something other than their native tongue. In the world of healthcare, this can be particularly challenging. Healthcare professionals encounter patients they cannot understand, and treatment can be difficult to provide. As the world becomes more culturally diverse and we interact with people who are completely different from us, language learning is now more important than ever, especially when others’ well-being and comfort are at stake.

While it can seem like the solution to language barriers is to have interpreters on- and off-site to assist healthcare professionals, this is not a sustainable and equitable solution.

Here are the reasons why multilingualism and language training are so important in the healthcare industry.

Having interpreters is not cost-effective

To deal with language barriers, healthcare professionals employ interpreters that work onsite or on the telephone. This has been the norm for years. Although it can seem efficient in addressing language barriers in the short-term, it takes up a lot of resources to seek the help of language interpreters. It comes at a price, and it can get expensive when you look at the long-term costs. This is in addition to the time and effort, as well as administrative work, it takes.

For a long-term solution, a more efficient way to keep up with increasing demands and globalization is to have staff that can speak the language of the patients. By having staff that can speak multiple languages, you reduce your needs for such interpreters and can save up your resources. Having multilingual staff also comes in handy in emergency situations wherein you don’t have the time to wait for the help of an on-site interpreter.

Of course, not every hospital can afford to hire multilingual staff, and there will be plenty of great employees that are monolingual. One way to go about this is to make sure that your staff has language training as an option. In a modern hospital, all staff should be given the option and encouraged to take language courses during the course of their careers. This is particularly needed when hospitals are servicing immigrant communities or communities of colors whose primary language is not English.

Connect with patients on a new level

Language learning is an ongoing process. It’s not like calling an interpreter, who then delivers the results in a few minutes. Language learning requires studies and some level of dedication and commitment. As you learn the language you find yourself drawn to the culture, or cultures, that speak it.

When patients see the effort that your staff goes through to speak not English, but their language, communication will take on a whole new level. Even if doctors and nurses do not speak the language well and all they can do at the beginning is ask simple questions, such as “How are you today?” connecting with patients will be very different.

Remember, Nelson Mandela once said, “If you speak to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you speak to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” If you want to get to someone’s heart, you have to speak their language. If you are a physician, it is highly recommended that you connect with your patient’s story. One way of doing this is to understand where they come from, and that includes their language.

Therefore, find out where are most patients in your hospital from? What languages do they speak? What language do they prefer to speak? You probably already have all this information. If you do not, a simple survey will take care of it. Service your community the way they need to be served, not the way you think they should be.

Celebrates diversity

Language learning is proven to make people more accepting and open to other cultures. In other words, investing in language learning for your hospital staff will not only give them a new skill that will benefit your hospital and your patients. It will also help you build a more tolerant culture within your workforce. It will show that you’re truly committed to diversity and inclusion.

Make language learning part of your D&I programming. You will see that this is an investment that will improve patient-staff relationships, increase employee morale, and create an organic way of celebrating diversity.

Building relationship one language at a time

The benefits of having a multilingual staff are undeniable, especially in the healthcare industry. It helps your staff provide a greater sense of comfort and healing for your patients, and contributes to stronger relationships entirely.With foreign language learning by your side, you allow your doctors to focus on what matters most: communication, healing, and relationships. By including language learning as part of your hospital, you’ll be able to run a hospital that celebrates diversity, understands cultural differences, and above all, celebrates the value of life.

If you wish to pursue this life-changing opportunity, Diáfano can help. We are a language provider dedicated to helping companies and organizations grow, as we help empower your people through fun and innovative foreign language courses and programs.

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