The nature of work in the healthcare industry is such that there is no room for delays. 30 seconds are enough to sustain or end a life. However, to assess a patient, the first thing a doctor has to do is understand what is wrong with them. Without understanding what is wrong, there is no way the doctor can proceed further. But what about language barriers in the medical field?
What if the patient does not speak the same language as the doctor? How will the patient explain their problem? And without knowing the problem, how will the doctor treat them?
Language Barriers in The Medical Field Are a Problem
Language barriers in the medical field are one of the major obstacles that healthcare workers face all over the world. In fact, in most developing countries, people from the villages are unable to explain their problems to doctors. All of this is due to language barriers that either of the two face.
Language barriers in the medical field are common. Did you know that 20 percent of Spanish speaking Latinos in the U.S. do not seek medical treatment due to language barriers?
Just think about it yourself. You visit the doctor but neither you nor she can understand what the other one is speaking. Will you be able to trust the doctor?
We all know the obvious answer here- you won't. There is a simple reason behind it. You haven’t been able to speak to the doctor and form a personal relationship in any way. Language barriers in the medical field need to be overcome.
You seem to have a medical issue, so what do you do? The first instinct would be Googling the problem. Google, most of the time, provides us with melodramatic answers, leaving us to conclude that we have cancer, or some equally fatal illness.
Even a minor headache seems to end with cancer! For any patient, this can become a major cause of worry.
However, for some people, going to the doctor can create as much panic as Googling the problem. All because of the language barriers in the medical field.
What Role Does Language Play in Healthcare?
- Building Trust: Giving someone the right to cut through your body is a very risky decision for any individual. The most important thing that needs to be taken care of is the trust factor. The patient and doctor must be able to trust each other, and language barriers in the medical field, the entire process seems quite difficult.
- Past Information: When a patient goes to a hospital, she also needs to inform the doctor about her medical history, which again needs to be accurate. Proper communication ensures that the information given to the doctor is precise and accurate. This helps in aiding the doctor to cure the patient.
- Time, Money and Lives: Proper communication helps to save the doctor’s time, patient’s money and most importantly precious lives. While the nursing course and MBBS course supplements the life saving process, language supports the process even further. Language barriers in the medical field are both costly and dangerous.
- Proper Communication: Patients who do not speak the same language as the doctor may sometimes be victims of miscommunication. And no one want to die of miscommunication. Language plays an important role by making sure that whatever information the doctor wants to disseminate, the exact same information is gauged by the patient.
What Role Does an Interpreter Play?
Hospitals are realizing the importance of language barriers in the medical field and are employing more and more interpreters for that reason. These are definitely some positive changes.
So what role does an interpreter really play? In the healthcare industry, there are a number of areas which require complex translation.
- Pharmaceutical Industry: In the pharmaceutical industry, there are a number of documents that require translations like brochures, training documents, medical slips, information booklets, etc. The major problem with translation is the technical language printed on the documents or spoken by the medical experts which, if translated incorrectly, can also pose a major life threat.
- Understanding Complex Medical Terminology: To be a medical translator, it is not enough to be merely fluent in two languages. The major part is where the complex medical terminology needs to be understood and explained. The translator needs to be careful while interpreting the term and must make sure it is correct.
- Conveying Complex Ideas: The translator needs to take care that they are conveying even the most complex of ideas in such a manner that a layman understands it. Otherwise, a layman would remain confused and dissatisfied and language barriers in the medical field will not be overcome.
- Cultural Sensitivity: A translator needs to be well-versed with the cultural sensitivity of the place the language belongs to and must be careful while making translations.
- Confidentiality: The medical translator needs to make sure that whatever information is disseminated between the patient and physician is confidential and does not go out. The patient-physician conversation may have a lot of personal information as well which must remain confidential and the translator needs to ensure it.
Without medical translators and interpreters, the medical fraternity would be in a difficult place and we all know why! Medical translators and interpreters have technical knowledge which not every other person can have. They are a gift to the medical industry.
Ms. Sahiba Sadana is a professional Content Editor and an avid literature reader. She is the Content Editor at Sharda University and a regular contributor to Business Town, and Munfarid Consulting.