Just as in every other facet of our lives, medicine has become more connected internationally. Healthcare workers of previous generations who may have only collaborated at conferences have given way to doctors, researchers, support staff, and others who provide health services around the world daily.
Global health is key to prosperity, security, and culture. It is easier for medical emergencies to spread across borders, meaning that medical personnel often have to communicate with other countries on relatively short notice. This makes language skills vital when addressing these emergencies.
Language efforts can take two forms: training healthcare workers in needed languages and providing highly-trained professionals to act as translators and communication conduits – both of which become invaluable when there is little notice for collaborative needs.
But there is also a need for long-term solutions, especially in research. In the past decade, medical and scientific journal articles have had an increasingly international presence, with one-third now being authored by international collaborators. Although English is still the lingua franca of research, more language skills equals more doctors and researchers being able to collaborate – which equals new treatments and better standards of care. It also reduces researchers’ need to shoehorn their findings into a language they may not wholly understand, which could lead to miscommunication.
Providing language skills to far-flung healthcare professionals is easier than ever through technology. Language learning is no longer dependent on location and timing. Professionals can study anywhere at any time, even in remote locations experiencing a medical crisis. It’s even possible to tailor curricula to the specific needs of healthcare workers, their common interactions, and their specific terminologies.
Health is a global concern, from poorer nations to those who contribute the most to international research and aid efforts. The more healthcare professionals collaborate, the more lives can be saved.