Since the US is a veritable melting pot of nationalities, it's important for dental clinics to reach out to all sorts of people. A dental assistant from Arizona, Mariela R., says she is grateful to be bilingual in Spanish because there are so many people bereft of healthcare. While mostly unintentional, some clinics isolate ESL patients because there is no communication outreach. Even if you aren't bilingual, there are ways to make your dental clinic friendly to non-English-speaking patients.
Have a Local Interpretation Service On Retainer
While a friend or family member can interpret for a patient, it's often best to have a local interpreter come to the clinic. Many interpretation services have employees that have been trained on medical terminology. These interpreters can truly help patients since they can describe the procedure's nuances correctly.
While Spanish interpreters are very popular, make sure you research your community's demographics for other needed languages. For example, you may be surprised to learn that Minnesota has one of the largest populations of Somali Americans. So if you worked in Minnesota, contacting a Somali interpreter would be greatly beneficial to your clinic. While this kind of interpretation may be harder to find than something like Spanish, it's worth the effort. By being inclusive to different demographics in your area, you'll be able to boost your business and help people get access to needed healthcare.
Some local interpretation services can also help you set up your business websites with two language options. If web content is in a person's native tongue, then your patients will be better prepared for procedures and less anxious if an interpreter isn't able to come that day.
Use Hand Signs and Body Language
If you do not speak a person's native tongue, you may need to get creative. For instance, if you need a patient to bite down on some gauze, you could point to your mouth and then close your hand slowly to imitate the action of biting down. If you want to make sure a patient is not in any pain, you may want them to give you a thumbs-up or thumbs-down sign. While it may seem silly, these little actions show your commitment to communicate.
Follow good Practices for Those That Understand Some English
Some of your patients may speak and understand English, but may not to be confident about it. If this is the case, be sure that you speak slowly and succinctly. While it's hard to avoid idioms and slang, do your best. While you may want to talk slowly for comprehension, be mindful that you don't raise your voice or use baby talk.
Once You Know Your Niche, Make an Effort to Learn the Basics
When working on a patient, the biggest issue is their pain threshold. You may want to learn some basic words in their native language, like "good" or "bad," to know how your patient is doing. While you won't be bilingual, having a basic vocabulary can help your patients feel more comfortable. Plus, clearer communication between you and your clients will help protect you from any malpractice claims.
For more information or advice, contact a business such as the Language Banc.