As a trained first aider, you may have been equipped with the necessary skills
to save life. However, one huge hindrance in providing effective first aid is communication. Read further and learn how to overcome language barriers in first aid.
Communication is an important aspect in a successful first aid. No matter how good or skilled you are, your skills are useless if you are not able to communicate with the victim. In fact, language barriers can be a hindrance in providing efficient first aid. It can either delay providing first aid or result in inaccurate assessment. Moreover, it is only through communication that you can establish patient confidence and can carry out essential patient assessment.
Although English is the language spoken by a great majority, there are still millions of non-English-speaking people in different communities. Administering first aid to non-English speakers can be tough, especially if you do not have background or basic knowledge of the language. Even an experienced first aider or an EMT can have a difficult time assessing the victim and providing care.
In order to provide efficient first aid for a non-English speaking patient, ask the help of bystanders. A friend, family or relative may know the language; use him to communicate with the victim. But if there is no one around to help you, attempt to use gestures. Point to yourself and say your name clearly, and then point to the victim. Usually, the victim will respond with his name. You can also point to your identification card. If the victim does not respond, repeat it.
If you are going to touch or examine the victim, point to the part of the body before actually touching him. Use simple gestures to ask if there is pain or problems in specific areas of the body. Throughout first aid, continue talking to the patient. The victim may appear unable to understand what you say but as you go further he may eventually understand you.
For advanced first aiders, EMTs and paramedics who are assigned in areas where there are non-English-speaking communities, it would be helpful to gain basic foreign language skills. This can help you communicate in first aid
situations. You can also find self-help books about the community’s language or try learning online. In most cases, the community will gladly welcome the opportunity of helping you and other first aiders. They can guide you through learning their language.
St Mark James and some accredited first aid training providers actually provide multilingual books that first aiders can use. In fact, in some communities, first aid training courses are conducted in their native or foreign language. This can greatly help you in understanding the victim.