I always wanted to be fluent in English because it is the universal language. I am a nurse back home in the Philippines and with God’s blessings I was able to get a job in US. It was my first time working abroad so I was a bit concerned about the cultural diversities I may encounter because I will be dealing with different patients with different origins. On the other hand, I was excited because it will be very challenging for me, I guess. I remember when I was still doing my review studies for the NCLEX and there is a topic about Transcultural Nursing and every time I read my book I always associate each of my friends as an Arabic, Asian, African- American, Native Americans, etc. so I won’t forget their beliefs in relation to caring. Surprisingly, it helped me remember them!
On my first day working on the floor as a Telemetry nurse, I was shy to speak in English because I might say something in different ways. It always happen to me especially when I use the letters “P” and “F” or letters “B” and “V” or “S” and “Z”. I always pronounce them interchangeably and I am very careful in saying word with these letters. That’s why to avoid mistakes I talk less and put a little bit of action. I will talk when needed and necessary.
To tell you the truth I am having a hard time understanding the African-American’s accent. I really do. Most of the time I do not understand them when they speak to me so I always ask them a second time to say it again for me to absorb what they are saying. There are a lot of adjustments not only to me but also for them understanding my accent. To work on it, what I did was I asked an Africa-American Phlebotomist friend of mine to teach me their accent so I can apply it to my patients. And every time she does her blood draws every 5 am in the morning I will see her and talk to her like a black person, with her accent, with the moves, gestures, and facial expressions. I know it’s funny but I need to do it for the sake of understanding.
One night, I had to take care of my two patients who don’t speak English but can understand limited words like “Yes”, “No”, “Okay”, and “Thank You”. I was very overwhelmed in explaining things to them because that night put me to the test of my expertise in mimicking how a person talks. My hospital doesn’t have a formal translator and we mostly rely on our patients family or relatives who knows how to speak English and do the translation for us and for the patient.
It forced me to do my own research on the internet about word translations like the basic words in caring “Medicine”, “Pain”, “Food”, & “Sleep”, etc. I had a patient from Pakistan who speaks Urdo (National Language of Pakistan) but can understand “Yes” or “No” words and a Greek who only speaks Greek language. Here comes my less talk with a little bit of action policy on the track. I talked to them in simple words. Instead of asking “Have you eaten already”? I will ask them “Eat”? (with some re-enactment of me holding the spoon and fork and trying to eat. And surprisingly they will answer back by saying the word “Yes”. It was a good sign that communication is becoming effective. And if its time to give their medicine I will simply tell them the term medicine in their own language as part of my reaserch and luckily they do understand.
It is not hard, you just have to do some effort in order to convey the information you want your patients know. I know there are risks in doing such things but whats left me is my own personal resources and I will be using these techniques because it helps me carry out my tasks with my patients who requires special communication needs.