Beyond the Language Barrier 'Speak', 'See', 'Help Me'

  • Badruddin S
  • Arif S
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Introduction: King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center (KFSHRC) workforce is composed of close to 67 different nationalities. Diversity in the nursing workforce is unique in the hospital reason being the expatriates outnumber the Saudi nationals. Staff from different backgrounds provides a different perspective to the clinical care ensuring the hospital standards and policies are adhered to. In the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), when these new nurses arrive, their grasp of Arabic is limited. It is essential that nurses understand the language of their patients. In intensive care setting, patient’s condition is critical and highly specialized nursing care is paramount to the safety of the patient. It poses a challenge for non-Arabic speaking nurses to overcome the language barriers, to ensure high quality care is provided to the patient, maintain patient satisfaction and confidentiality. Therefore, communication tool kit is developed to overcome the language barrier. The tool kit is an educational instrument for non-Arabic speakers by expediting learning most frequent terms and words in Arabic. Aim: The purpose of this study is to focus on the importance of implementing a communication toolkit to enhance the communication between the nurse and the patient. Moreover, this study attempted to evaluate the efficacy of this communication tool prepared for non-Arabic health care providers. Method: Descriptive Quantitative pre and post-test study design was used. This study included all adult intensive care units and non-Arabic speaking nurses from KFSHRC in Riyadh. The pre and post questionnaire was developed by a panel of experts working in the ICU. The communication toolkit was created by direct care staff nurses working alongside the multidisciplinary team to address communication barriers. Baseline assessment was conducted which highlighted the common words and culturally appropriate images used by the Arabic patients. After the approval of the ethics and research board the study was conducted. Recruitment of the participants was performed on a voluntarily basis. On the basis of the sample size, 95 percent level of confidence, 73 participants were recruited. The communication toolkit was distributed for the duration of three months. Follow up was performed by the investigators after three a months’ time frame. Results: The results of the study showed that 90 percent of the nurses did not study Arabic prior to their arrival in the hospital. 72 nurses completed the pre and post questionnaires. Majority of the nurses were from Asian countries and few were from Western countries. Most of the nurses were using interpreters to overcome the language barrier. With regards to the questionnaire 94 percent of the nurses viewed that this toolkit will overcome their language difficulties. 19 percent used the toolkit daily, 55 percent used it twice per week and 16 percent used once per month. In regards to the efficacy 83 percent stated that this toolkit is a good mode of communication with the patients. 50 percent of the nurse highlighted the need for Arabic classes. Conclusion: This study highlights the need for the toolkit to improve the language barriers. Most of the nurses have suggested Arabic classes, access to electronic devices and need for interpreters to overcome the language barrier. The toolkit is important and is to be made available in all areas of the organization.




Badruddin, S., & Arif, S. (2017). Beyond the Language Barrier “Speak”, “See”, “Help Me.” Journal of Nursing & Care, 06(04).

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