What are Specific Advantages of Being Bilingual in Healthcare?
I'm bilingual and I understand the general usefulness of it, but I'd like a deeper insight into how being bilingual can make a positive impact in healthcare, as well as opportunities relating to it.
bilingual healthcare medicine
When you are able to communicate with a patient in the language they feel most comfortable in, right away you help them feel included and that your are listening to their concerns. It helps establish trust as well.
An intangible side effect of being bilingual is that you begin to see things from a different perspective. Medicine is still far behind the eight ball when it comes to culturally aware and appropriate care. And when you’ve learned to speak another language fluently you begin to gain insight into culture (it’s not the same as being trained in culturally sensitive medicine but it’s a start.)
Even if you don’t go into healthcare, knowing other languages makes you more aware of other viewpoints than your own. It makes travel easier. It makes communicating with people here in the US easier.
Hope this helps. 😀
Carolyn D. recommends the following next steps:
I hope this helps!
Best of luck!
There are wonderful answers here already, but I'd like to quickly add one opinion, which is that speaking multiple languages is amazing in that there are many words that do not have an equal in other languages.
For me, I was born in Korea and migrated to the U.S. when I was 9. What I still find fascinating is that there are tastes that are described in the Korean languages that cannot be translated to English. These tastes are present in foods found in the U.S., but there are no English words to describe it. When I talk to my parents and my brother, even if all the other words are English, when I describe that taste, I have to say it in Korean.
Now, knowing that, I am sure that there are many other words and expressions that cannot be translated or are translated poorly, without their full meaning. Given that, I think speaking multiple languages is a beautiful gift to yourself and one that can help you in any career, but especially in healthcare, given how accurately we must describe our bodies to medical professionals.
I wish you the best in 2021!
Since everyone will need healthcare visits (primary physician/dentist/phys therapy/illness/prevention/female checkups/having a baby/etc.) they will need to have a doctor that understands what they are saying. They will also benefit from billing departments and scheduling departments also understanding what they are saying in case issues need to be reconciled.
Having someone understand what you are trying to communicate takes stress off situations, especially if you have an illness diagnosis that is stressful in its own rite.
I am not been in healthcare but I am a bilingual person working in the world, so I wanted to add my thoughts about being bilingual.
The first thing that I would mention that being fluent in any language is on a spectrum. Some people who only know a small percentage of a language would be considered bilingual. For context, I consider myself to have my highest form of fluency in English. I live in the US and speak English in all my interactions in every aspect of my life. My second language is Spanish. I learned Spanish first from Puerto Rican parents. I spoke the language in the home. So my level of fluency in Spanish would be much less than my English.
While I am comfortable in many social situations, I would not be able to hold a detailed conversation in areas that have legal impacts or in the case of medical situations involving the names of medicines, for example. If you have that level of knowledge in an in-need language in the US, there is great support that you can provide. Most people coming from countries like South America are like me with Spanish, they have a rudimentary knowledge of English. That can be terrifying in a hospital or other medical setting. I believe that you would be in high demand if you have a high degree of fluency in a second language. You would need to be careful to study for your medical diploma in both languages, which is an extra burden for you. I would also say that if you perform your work in two languages, you should make sure that you get paid more than your single language counterparts. However, you proceed, fluency in medicine in two languages is a competitive advantage.
Your real challenge is how you would like to use your skill in two languages. That is only a question you can answer. People are not usually excited about interacting with medical professionals. It can bring people comfort to have someone helping them in the language of their birth work through that stressful time.
I live in an area of Canada where being bilingual in French and English is a requirement for employment. My area has a majority of the population that speaks English, but we still have lots of people who have French as a first language. Being able to work in both languages, allows us to offer health care in the language that they can most easily understand. This helps ensure they know what to do to take care of themselves, what follow up is needed etc. Although they may understand English, they will do better if they understand what is being said.
Depending on where you live, employment may be partially based on your ability to speak a second language.
In research, for example, we need people who can design and implement quantitative surveys and qualitative interviews that are inclusive and accurately capture the experiences and perspectives of diverse backgrounds, cultural contexts, and levels of health literacy. This could include epidemiological research into what causes certain health exposures and outcomes, and how this varies across different populations. To do this type of research effectively, we need folks who can design it in a way that accurately samples and elicits responses from the population, including many folks for whom English is not a first language. We also need better representation in clinical trials--like whether a vaccine works effectively across many different populations and health conditions--and designing research protocols to enable recruitment and successful participation of diverse patient populations makes the quality of the trials better.
We also need speakers of many languages working as public health professionals. Public health programs are more effective when delivered in a culturally appropriate way with clear and relevant language--like how to help people quit smoking, how to encourage moms to breastfeed their babies, or how people can improve their nutrition and exercise regimens, for example. All of these areas require bi-lingual professionals who can help create and deliver evidence-based programs to the people who need them.
Finally, there are many business functions in healthcare that benefit hugely from bilingualism. Health systems, drug companies, insurance companies, pharmacies, and most other healthcare businesses have marketing and public relations departments, HR departments, IT, consumer/member/patient advocacy or engagement departments, etc. Depending on the geographical focus of the organization, the language needs may differ, but any high-performing healthcare organization supports and engages both its own employees and the people it serves in the languages they feel most comfortable in. When reaching out to patients/members, the organization will be most effective if communicating with them in a language they feel most comfortable in. And when attracting, retaining, and supporting employees, the same is true--keep in mind that a significant proportion of the healthcare workforce in the U.S. was born in another country, some of whom are more comfortable in a native language that is not English.
In summary, I really can't think of an area in healthcare where bilingualism wouldn't be an advantage for you. Good luck!
I am not in healthcare but I can give you some insight on how being bilingual saved my mom. I was born in Honduras and I came to the United States when I was 4 years old. I learned English in school but at home I always spoke Spanish. When I was 10 years old my mom got really sick at home and we had to call 911. When the ambulance arrived, nobody could talk to her because nobody spoke Spanish. I quickly stepped in and made sure I could tell the paramedics what my mom was saying. I was really scared because I just wanted them to save my mom, but I knew I had to stay calm to be able to tell them how she felt and what was going on. I rode in the ambulance with her all the way to the hospital, and when we got to the hospital we were back in the same situation. Nobody at the hospital could speak Spanish! So here I was 10 years old, translating for Doctors and Nurses to be the voice for my mom who couldn't communicate her symptoms. When the Doctors came back with results and with medical lingo that I couldn't translate, we had to get creative on how to make my mom understand she was going into surgery. Remember she is having to sign paperwork as well to allow the Doctors to do what they have to do. My mom survived her surgery and the Doctors were so grateful they were able to have me translate what was happening so they could take care of her. The Doctors told me that if I hadn't been there to translate, saving my mom would have been much harder.
I was recognized at a school assembly by the Police Department and Hospital for remaining remarkably calm and providing aid in an intense situation. THIS! -- is why being Bilingual will always make a positive impact in Healthcare. Not only will you be able to bride the gap between Doctors and Nurses who don't speak another language, but you might save somebodies LIFE!
The beauty of being Bilingual is that you are an asset to any and all industries!