3 ways healthcare can benefit from more language learners.

Mango Healthcare

What do doctors, nurses, pharmacy care technicians, and physical therapists all have in common? Besides working hard around the clock to ensure we all stay healthy and happy, they are also tasked with providing the same quality care to everyone – regardless of ethnicity, gender, or native language. Let’s face it: health issues aren’t always fun, and hospital visits can cause a great deal of stress. But when a patient is able to communicate with medical staff in their own language, it can make a world of difference on both sides.

A quick look at the stats shows us just how valuable language training can be for the healthcare industry. In 2011, there were about 25.3 million people living in the U.S. with LEP (Limited English Proficiency), or who do not speak English as their native language. Most of these people are concentrated in California, Texas, and New York, but many others are spreading out to inland states as well. The most common languages spoken by LEP individuals? Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, and German. For a healthcare worker in 2017, learning one of these languages (or one of the many other languages spoken by U.S. born LEPs) has never been a better idea.

Reduce patient anxiety.

Think about the last time you had a doctor’s appointment or visited the hospital. Chances are, the medical staff used at least some technical language that you might not have fully understood. You may have seen unfamiliar medical equipment in the room, or heard unpleasant sounds coming from various parts of the building. All this is to be expected (and is quite normal for a healthcare facility) but as a patient, it can also make you feel vulnerable and intimidated. Now, imagine how that might feel for someone who doesn’t speak the same language as their doctor or nurse – it can become downright overwhelming.

Being able to communicate with patients in their native language helps ease these feelings of anxiety and confusion that often accompany a trip to the doctor’s office. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), when a healthcare provider speaks their patient’s native language well, it results in increased satisfaction and greater well-being for people suffering from chronic disease. It all goes to show that language training can lay the foundation for a more trustful, comfortable experience for everyone involved.

Make accurate diagnoses.

Is it a sharp or a dull pain? Does it come and go, or is it constant? When you’re feeling sick, the only person who can describe your symptoms accurately is you. That’s why it’s so important to have clear communication with your doctor or healthcare provider when it comes time to tell your story. While many hospitals do offer interpretation services, it’s always ideal when patients and doctors are on the same page from the very beginning, helping ensure that the patient is getting the correct treatment that they need.

Errors in communication can mean more than an inaccurate diagnosis – it could even put someone’s life in danger. Take this real-life example cited by the Wall Street Journal: due to a language barrier, a doctor assumed his patient’s shortness of breath was caused by an anxiety attack, when it was actually a particular complication of diabetes that could have resulted in a coma. Had that doctor been able to speak the patient’s native language, he likely could have acted much faster.

Who can particularly benefit from language skills? Nurses. They’re typically the ones with the most patient contact, and they can often find out crucial clues about a patient’s situation. For a nurse, understanding that person’s native language can be vital in order to do a thorough, accurate assessment.

Improve career opportunities.

If you’re a healthcare provider, we admire you. If you’re a multilingual healthcare provider, we’d like to be you. Learning a second language helps healthcare professionals stand out from the competitive pack when applying to jobs, and certainly will work in your favor if you’re looking to further your career – both domestically and abroad.

Ever considered being a travel nurse, or dreamed of participating in Doctors Without Borders? Language training can open up these (and many more) exciting opportunities to travel and develop a career in new countries. Places in desperate need of effective healthcare services, such as many African and Middle Eastern countries, can benefit greatly from hiring multilingual healthcare providers. Speaking the same language can be the first step to building lasting relationships and trust with communities in need.

Feeling ready to commit to stronger, more meaningful relationships with your patients? Whether you’re located at a small local doctor’s office or a hospital halfway around the world, Mango will be there every step of the way. If you have frequent contact with Spanish-speaking patients, our Medical Spanish course teaches you to effectively communicate with patients about various illnesses and diseases, give accurate dosage instructions, and explain complicated side effects. Looking for a different language? We’ve got over 70. Start learning today, and work towards creating a more comfortable, welcoming environment for all your patients.

Meet The Author:
Author - Britta Wilhelmsen
Britta Wilhelmsen
Linguist at Mango Languages
Britta is a University of Michigan graduate, currently living and working in the vibrant city of Buenos Aires, Argentina. When she’s not busy teaching English to business professionals or writing for Mango, you can find her enjoying the sun in one of Buenos Aires’ beautiful parks and/or studying Spanish in her free time. Like many mangos, she believes that language consistently makes life more colorful.

To embark on your next language adventure, join the Mango fam!

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