The statistics are unsettling. According to the Joint Commission of Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, 65% of hospital deaths and injuries are directly related to communication breakdowns. Nearly 55% of medication errors are caused by faulty communication. These are preventable, treatable problems that would not have occurred if the communication had been clear.
We all know that more paperwork is not the answer. But how can we prevent the needless deaths? What can be done to reduce errors and improve patient outcomes?
One area that must be addressed is that of foreign-born doctors’ accented English. Even those who are proficient in English often still speak with such a thick accent that it is difficult for nurses and patients to understand what they are saying. Unfortunately, it is difficult for them to see the problem because, often, they’ve been speaking English since they were a child and it was good enough to get them through medical school.
But here’s the reality. It’s not an issue of a deficit in their expertise or knowledge and it’s not an issue of their needing “speech therapy”; it’s simply a matter of needing some extra training to improve communication skills.
For example, let’s suppose that a doctor treating a patient turns to his nurse and asks her to administer fifteen milligrams of a medication. She misunderstands him and proceeds to give the patient fifty milligrams of the medication. Now, the doctor knew exactly what he was doing, and the nurse followed instructions as precisely as she could. The problem occurred because of one simple mispronunciation — and could have had disastrous results.
The solution? Providing onsite or online accent reduction training for foreign-born medical professionals. With programs tailored specifically to the medical community, accent reduction specialists can provide the pronunciation training that healthcare workers need while adapting to their hectic schedule.
Depending on the needs of a particular hospital or private practice, accent reduction training can often be provided individually, in small groups, or even in a large group seminar. With virtual training now available via Skype, classes can literally be scheduled anytime and anywhere in the world, as long as there is internet available.
Please don’t expect your staff speech pathologists to provide this service. They have enough on their plates, and asking them to “treat” the doctors would reinforce the stigma that something is wrong and requires therapy. Instead, locate a speech pathologist off site whose specialty is accent reduction training. That way, this person is brought in as an expert trainer offering continuing education opportunities.
Communication breakdowns are one of the biggest causes of error in medical settings – and many of them are preventable. Accent reduction training is one effective way to reduce the number of communication-related mistakes. What are you doing to improve the communication skills of the foreign-born healthcare workers in your practice?
To find out more about Medically Speaking classes, accent reduction classes for the medical community, please visit http://www.losemyaccent.com. You can also get a FREE online accent screening with personalized tips for practice.