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New Languages: A Hurdle For International Nurses And The Healthcare Industry

Despite the presence of 29 million nurses around the world, the global healthcare industry is still having a hard time filling vacancies, a problem often blamed on language barriers. While developed nations have opened their doors to foreign nurses, most of their hospitals are still understaffed. This is a pressing problem worldwide, as hospitals need nurses who can speak the native language to give proper care to patients, noting that lack of proficiency in a particular language can endanger the lives of patients. This is also equally problematic for unemployed nurses looking for jobs abroad because they need to master a new language before they can actually work in their country of choice.

A Challenge

Learning a new language can be challenging, but for people in the medical field, insufficient language skills can put the lives of patients at risk. According to public health expert Eileen Williamson, nurses face a number of challenges in providing care for patients. In a bilingual or multilingual setting, inability to communicate can result in mishaps, miscommunication, misinterpretations, and even malpractice. Due to these considerations, hospitals hiring foreign nurses need to ensure that their personnel has mastered the language of the country they are in.

Language Barrier and Job Prospects

The role of good communication skills in healthcare is widely acknowledged, but in the context of foreign nurses, this can be a hurdle for gainful employment. Before working in a particular country, nurses need to pass a language exam. Passing the IELTS or the TOEFL, for example, would make it possible for them to work in English-speaking nations. In Germany, nurses from other parts of the world will need to learn German and later take a standardized exam to test their proficiency before they could start working in the country. While examinations for language proficiency are needed to ensure optimal care, these tests can prevent a nurse from working abroad.

The Japanese Example

With Japan’s elderly population now at a whopping 26.18 million, based on data released by Japan Times in September, the need for expert elderly care is more urgent than ever. However, the country is still struggling to fill its nursing positions despite bilateral agreements with Hanoi, Manila, and Jakarta. Different agencies around the world have been working hard to get foreign nurses ready to work in the country though. For these agencies, language skills training is a top priority and a part of the preparatory programme before said professionals fly to Japan. While learning a new language can be daunting, the Japanese government provides pre-arrival language training to candidates in its effort to increase the number of nurses in its hospitals.

Learning a New Language

Although learning a new language is unlikely to result in perfection, making it enjoyable will result in success. In fact, finding joy in learning the target language will make language skills easier to learn. Apart from this, nurses planning to work in a foreign country also need to be highly motivated to achieve proficiency.

— Written by Jane Sandwood, Contributor at Mondly

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New Languages: A Hurdle For International Nurses And The Healthcare Industry
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