The Role of Language in Medical Programs

nurse treating kidFor nurses, doctors, technicians, and others in the medical field, the need to communicate with patients and family members from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds is becoming a daily demand. There is a need both for ESL training for professionals from immigrant backgrounds, as well as training in key languages represented in the community.

Hospitals and medical facilities have begun to make language skills an important factor when considering candidates for employment. In fact, the Standards of Practice for Culturally Competent Nursing Care, a joint effort of the Transcultural Nursing Society and the American Nursing Association, was updated in 2011. In Standard 9 on Cross-Cultural Communication, it talks about the need for the “health care system [to] make every attempt to provide resources for interpretation,” including bilingual staff with job descriptions that include the role of interpreter.

Increasingly these institutions are looking to universities, community colleges, and language schools to equip the burgeoning workforce with the language skills they are seeking. However, language study can be difficult to fit into the busy schedule of today’s students, particularly adult and part-time learners, and it can be a challenge for educators to provide language-learning opportunities that meet students’ needs.

Educational institutions often need to think outside the box to determine how they can make language learning more accessible to all types of students. Some rely on their language departments to find solutions, while others may not have this option due to limited offerings or a lack of resources. For these institutions, offering a supplementary resource that students can use to study language on their own or alongside optional courses can help fill this need.

When the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine (UPSOM) saw the critical need to make language learning more accessible to its medical students due to both the increase of the Spanish-speaking patient population in the U.S. and an expanded international footprint, the university turned to Rosetta Stone for an innovative solution. Although the university’s language departments offered courses in all required languages, the school needed a flexible option that could complement the unpredictable schedules of students. By implementing a Rosetta Stone® solution, UPSOM gave students the opportunity to build skills in a number of languages while studying on their own and at their own pace.

Is your institution positioned to meet this growing demand? How can you work with your language department or language-learning partners to offer language options to future medical professionals?

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