Good communication is the foundation of safe patient care. Without clear communication, collecting patient information such as history, current symptoms, and changes in status can prove challenging. Language barriers have a direct effect on patient safety and quality care – which makes the need for bilingual nurses increasingly important.
If you’re considering a career in nursing and are bilingual, this can be a tremendous advantage for you, your patients, and their families.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 20% of the U.S. population – 66 million people – speaks a language other an English at home. Of these 66 million people, 38% report speaking English less than “very well.” That’s more than 8% of the entire U.S. population that does not speak English fluently.
There are more than 350 languages spoken across the United States. Where hospitals usually have a translator and a nurse, they are now looking to combine the two and offer a seamless offering of care.
Nurses build relationships with their patients and families, thus speaking more than one language opens doors for nurses and healthcare professionals. The fluency of communication has a big impact on the quality of care, patient-caregiver relationships, and patient health outcomes.
Bilingual nurses can help break down cultural barriers in healthcare and in turn help improve patient relationships, thereby improving patient care.
Translation services are offered in most healthcare institutions, but sometimes the service is provided over the phone. This can be effective in communicating information such as patient symptoms or describing the course of treatment. However, a face-to-face encounter is much more personalized and leaves room for the patient to ask questions.
In some cases, family members can translate for patients in situations where interpreters are not readily available. However, in recent situations like the COVID-19 pandemic, this option was not possible. Family visitation was limited or not allowed at all. Important medical information can also be lost in translation or misinterpreted during this sort of situation.
While medical interpreters are highly trained members of the healthcare team, they can’t be everywhere at once. Patients feel more at ease communicating in the language they are most comfortable speaking and with the nurse that is providing them with care. Incorporating multilingual communication within healthcare facilities ensures deeper trust in the healthcare process.
Being able to speak multiple languages is starting to play a big role in hiring preferences, promotional opportunities and income incentives. Bilingual nurses are in high demand, especially in states where English is not the native language for a large portion of the population.
This can also open doors to a range of exciting and rewarding travel nursing jobs, with the opportunity to play a significant role in improving patient care across the industry.
Healthcare organizations are actively seeking bilingual or multilingual nurses to better serve their patients and improve patient health outcomes. Nurses spend the most time communicating with patients, collecting and dispensing essential medical information throughout the healthcare process. Language barriers must not limit the efficacy of any aspect of this
The ability to speak languages other than English is an increasingly desired trait in nursing. Bilingual nurses, especially those who speak Spanish, will continue to be in demand in 2022 and beyond.