Language barrier also affects the quality
of end of life care (Granek et al, 2013).
In comparison to patients with family members receiving information who
are English proficient, those with non-English family members are at a higher
risk of fewer information regarding the illness of their loved ones (Thornton
et al, 2009).
Critical standards in the delivery of
ethical, quality care are ensuring informed consent is obtained as well as
maintaining patient confidentiality.
Informed consent is not achieved for patients with limited English
proficiency according to evidence.
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Another critical area that language
barrier affects is medication use. It
has been identified by many studies of the high rise in errors in medication
amongst individuals who face language barriers.
Studies have shown that increased risk of complications along with less
control of symptoms are apparent when language barrier is present (Dilworth et
al, 2009). Barton et al (2013) found
that it is more likely for English proficient individuals to report issues
understanding the purpose and category of medication than limited English proficient
individuals. There is a lack in
knowledge of the frequency and dosage of the drug.
conclusion, long term solutions to the issue of language barrier, will be for
our healthcare system to invest and provide a consistent dominant interpreter
service, for nurses as well as patients, that will be available at all times to
facilitate, offering optimal communication between nurses and patients, as this
will improve patient safety and satisfaction.
However, in the meantime, an effort must be put forth to help these
individuals. Short term solutions such as using visual methods. For example, showing pictures, using simple
and plain language, avoiding medical jargons, photographs or pictographs
demonstrating techniques and medication use.
Learning more than one language could aid
in helping individuals communicate with others who do not speak the same
language as their mother tongue. However, the thought of learning a new
language can be daunting and stressful, in addition to requiring a lot of invested
time. But there is great advantage in doing so, as it would enable you to
liaise with others who speak that particular language effectively, which in
itself only helps in the long run to prevent the issues that may arise from
According to RCN (2006) and Divi et al
(2007), difficulties in communication that nurses and patients encounter can
cause ineffective treatment plans and misdiagnosis. It is a requirement for nurses to meet
communication and language barriers and also to take the necessary actions to
meet the needs of ethnic minority patients to ensure that the information that
has been delivered is understood (NMC, 2008).
This is of great importance as it allows understanding of the views of
patients, expectation of the delivery of care as well as their thoughts, this
will then enable the nurse to meet their needs.
Furthermore, through nurses having a greater understanding of language
barriers, they are able to assist in the finding of strategies which are
suitable in overcoming these language barriers, and further improve the
provision of care to individuals who are affected by language barriers.
Effective communication takes into
account of, cultural differences, language and also health literacy, which are
all seen as the way to safe health care.
The most frequent root cause of serious events that occurs in the
healthcare setting is due to communication.
Many studies have identified that limited English proficiency patients
suffer serious adverse outcomes than English speaking patients. In order for health care professionals to
achieve high quality and safe care, cultural, linguistic and health literacy
barriers to patients needs to be addressed immediately.
There are many impacts that effective
communication can have on the quality of care in which nurses provide to
patients. In the case where limited or
no English is present, legal, professional and ethical challenges and issues
are raised in meeting the communication needs of these patients. But despite this, nurses can have many
positive effects on patients in this particular group through implementing and
planning ways and strategies to overcome language barriers.
Our job as nurses are to mitigate
communication issues and offering the best care possible to our diverse patient
population. There needs to be an
awareness of the many difficulties patients with limited English proficiency
have to face. We must create an
environment that is welcoming, and encourage these individuals to seek the care
that they need, even if there is a language barrier.