female doctor attending mature male diverse

In the healthcare field, employing skilled and competent caregivers who are able to meet the diverse and growing needs of our communities is more important than ever. In a 2018 study commissioned by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) and conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs, it was reported that 41% of healthcare and social assistance employers say that they rely “a lot” on employees with foreign language skills.

The report goes on to state that employers in the healthcare and social assistance sectors are significantly more likely than employers in any other sector to have a higher demand for foreign language skills now than they did five years ago (65% and 61%, respectively). With a five-year outlook, employers in the healthcare and social assistance sectors are the most likely to expect an increase in demand (64%).

Why this increased demand for multilingual and multicultural skills and communication in healthcare?

Because 65 million U.S. residents speak a language other than English, and 40% have limited or no English proficiency at all. We all agree that a big part of patient-centered care is language access.

How do healthcare providers meet these demands? What is the most valid and reliable way to certify the language skills needed from healthcare workers providing services to patients when English is not their first language?

Hiring staff to provide the best-in-class healthcare services begins with ensuring that your workforce reflects the diversity of the patients in your community. Responsible healthcare providers use valid and reliable assessments when hiring multilingual staff, especially the workers who are on the front lines and who make up the biggest part of a care team in any hospital or health center.

Multilingual healthcare workers such as interpreters, translators, nurses, and patient care technicians are uniquely qualified to provide optimal care to patients with limited English proficiency (LEP); however, not all self-proclaimed multilinguals have the appropriate level of language skills to interpret or translate medical information. 

Miscommunication and medical misinformation can be detrimental if not deadly. 

Language certification is essential. Being multilingual is not enough; the appropriate level of language proficiency needed, particularly for anyone providing medical care and/or interpretation, is crucial.

Questions such as when and where language was acquired are critical. Did language acquisition come from formal training and education, or was the language acquired at home with family members who are perhaps heritage speakers with limited exposure to medical terminology?

As a hiring manager for healthcare, consider requiring that candidates take language assessments as part of the interview process. Assessments will provide proof of their language proficiency.

Take the guesswork out of hiring multilingual staff in 2020. The demand is clear. Ensure that your organization is prepared to best serve your growing community and mitigate risk.


About Language Testing International

Since 1992, Language Testing International (LTI), a Samsung company, has been the leader in the development of language proficiency testing for more than 120 languages, globally. In partnership with the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), we proudly offer our corporate clients valid and reliable reading, writing, speaking, and listening tests. Each test is designed to properly determine the specific proficiency level of an individual and ultimately to provide a valid and defensible language credential.

From Fortune 500 corporations to small and midsize companies, LTI works closely with your human resources department to identify the appropriate level of language proficiency required for the position you are looking to fill. Once your needs have been identified, we will help you qualify the right candidates with the language skills needed to be successful.

Contact us today for a free consultation on best practices for hiring multilingual talent!

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