doctors running patient in bedLet’s face it, there is a strong and growing demand for multilingual talent as a natural result of the evolving demographic shifts in the United States. According to a study by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), Making Languages Our Business: Addressing Foreign Language Demand Among U.S. Employers, “American employers are operating in an increasingly multilingual and multicultural economy in which 65 million U.S. residents speak a language other than English (40 percent with limited or no English proficiency), and 96 percent of the world’s consumers and two-thirds of its purchasing power reside outside U.S. borders.” However, effective communication is likely to be most critical in the healthcare sector given that language proficiency (or lack thereof) could truly influence and determine the level of care provided to patients with limited English proficiency.

The cultural and linguistic competences of physicians, nurses, and medical teams have a tremendous impact on the level and quality of care that advances health equity and eliminates disparities for a diverse patient population, their families, and the community. An article in BMC Health Services Research entitled “Overcoming Language Barriers in Healthcare: A Protocol for Investigating Safe and Effective Communication When Patients or Clinicians Use a Second Language” states that there is an increase in the number of healthcare professionals whose first language is not the majority language in their country, and also a growing population of patients using healthcare systems where they do not share a first language with their practitioner (Meuter, Gallois, Segalowitz, Ryder, & Hocking, 2015). This represents a major communication barrier when conveying and understanding important healthcare information, it could also represent a safety hazard if left unaddressed, and it is happening all over the world.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health (n.d.) challenges the healthcare sector, its leadership, and human resources professionals to establish policies, practices, and training that provide effective, equitable, understandable, and respectful quality care and services that are responsive to diverse cultural health beliefs and practices, preferred languages, health literacy, and other communication needs. Therefore, being intentional in your recruitment, promotion, and support of a culturally and linguistically diverse workforce requires investing in its professional development and credentialing. One way to ensure that your team members are proficient in another language is to assess their speaking, reading, writing, and listening skills in their second and subsequent languages.

Still not convinced?

In a study conducted to determine whether hospitals measured up the National Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) Standards, participants reported the following (Diamond, Wilson-Stronks, & Jacobs, 2010):

• Only 13% of hospitals met all four of the language-related CLAS Standards.
• 19% of the hospitals in the study met none.
• Most hospitals reported using family members and untrained staff as interpreters in the care of linguistically diverse patients, posing a threat to safe healthcare practices and best standards in care.

Where does your healthcare organization measure up regarding the CLAS Standards?

Is your staff culturally and linguistically prepared to address the needs of a growing pool of diverse patients?

Certify your healthcare team today by contacting Language Testing International (LTI).

LTI administers language assessments to hundreds of thousands of candidates every year, and is one of the largest and most respected foreign language proficiency test providers in the world. We offer the highest level of client service as well as convenient online test scheduling and reporting over secure client networks.

Based on ACTFL’s rigorous test development research, standards, and best practices, our testing program and ratings have become a standard measure of language proficiency in the U.S for the past thirty years.

LTI provides valid and reliable reading, writing, speaking, and listening tests for our corporate clients in over 60 countries and 120 languages.

Learn more about our assessments here.

Contact us to get started!

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References

American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). (May 21, 2019). Making Languages Our Business: Addressing Foreign Language Demand Among U.S. Employers. Retrieved from https://www.leadwithlanguages.org/wp-content/uploads/MakingLanguagesOurBusiness_FullReport.pdf

Diamond, L., Wilson-Stronks, A., & Jacobs, E. (2010). Do hospitals measure up to the National Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services Standards? Medical Care, 48(12), 1080–1087.

Meuter, R. F. I., Gallois, C., Segalowitz, N. S., Ryder, A. G., & Hocking, J. (2015). Overcoming language barriers in healthcare: A protocol for investigating safe and effective communication when patients or clinicians use a second language. BMC Health Services Research, 15(371), 1–5. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12913-015-1024-8

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. (n.d.). The National CLAS Standards. Retrieved from https://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/browse.aspx?lvl=2&lvlid=53

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