Nurses Treating Non-Native English Speakers

Subject: Nursing
Pages: 1
Words: 302
Reading time:
2 min
Study level: College

By providing medical care to diverse populations of patients many challenges and difficulties can occur, especially when treating non-native English speakers. Such difficulties may include the misunderstanding of symptoms due to the patients’ inability to explain his health issues and the need to explain the final diagnosis in the simplest words possible. The patients’ English levels are diverse; therefore, problems usually emerge when treating tourists or immigrants who generally know only the basics of the language. Hence, when such a person is asked to describe their pain or explain previously recognized symptoms, the patient cannot communicate on the topic due to the language barrier. The same situation happens when the nurse or physician tries to present the diagnosis, foreigners with low English knowledge generally struggle with comprehension.

In order to overcome such challenges, several solutions can be implemented. For example, the management could hire special medical translators who are able to speak several and the most popular languages in the United States’ foreign communities. Those could include Spanish, Russian, and Chinese; or if such polyglots are not available, the hospital can employ several translators speaking different languages. According to Stephen (2021), the first step in treating limited English proficiency (LEP) patients is to define their English level. Additionally, nurses should participate in training oriented on cross-cultural communication, logical thinking, and creativity development.

Hence, it is possible to find some creative ways of interaction with a non-English speaking patient. Such approaches could include mimics, sign language, or drawing clarifying pictures on a blackboard. Nurses can kindly ask patients to show their symptoms, such as explaining their headache by touching the head. The levels of pain can be defined via graphs, tables, or scales of pain strength. Those techniques provide better communication with foreign patients and allow them to give them culturally appropriate care.


Stephen, J. M. (2021). Pediatric nurses’ experiences in caring for non-English speaking patients and families. Journal of Transcultural Nursing, 32(6), 690-696. Web.