As a clinician scientist who research the affect of language on well being care, I’m at all times desperate to delve right into a dialog about language, together with my very own accent. Nonetheless, no person ought to really feel obligated to share overly private data, notably within the context of office micro- or macroaggressions. I’ve discovered that responding to feedback about my accent with a query, similar to “Why do you ask?” or “Why do you say that?” is usually a good place to begin a productive dialogue (or typically to finish an undesirable barrage of questions).
We have to be extra than simply inquisitive about unfamiliar accents. We should embrace totally different accents as half of a bigger celebration of multilingualism and advocate for numerous voices all through the ranks of well being professions.
Multilingualism is not a barrier or a menace however fairly a chance to offer equitable well being care to an more and more numerous inhabitants. As of 2019, virtually 66 million people within the U.S. reported talking a non-English language at residence. Many U.S. doctors and nurses have abilities in non-English languages, however these abilities usually are not generally acknowledged or incentivized. In reality, many well being professionals I do know checklist non-English languages on the tail finish of their curriculum vitae beneath “hobbies” fairly than as a marketable skilled ability set. Some might deliberately disguise or de-emphasize non-English language abilities for concern of discrimination. Bilingual workers, together with college students, could also be overburdened by frequent requests to serve as untrained interpreters even when they’re unprepared for such a job and concern making a medical error.
Language in well being care shouldn’t be a supply of disgrace, nervousness or minority taxation. We will change the narrative by associating multilingualism with the excellence that comes from range. However we will solely do this if candidate selection processes are explicitly attentive to sources of bias, together with accent bias, and if we educate and reward health professional multilingualism. We should help chosen candidates by way of profession development alternatives such that well being care leaders not solely look but additionally sound like their communities. Actions that increase and have fun language justice and variety at each stage of well being care—amongst sufferers, college students, workers and management—will ship a transparent message: “All of us belong right here.”
Pilar Ortega, M.D., is a scientific assistant professor on the College of Illinois Faculty of Drugs in Chicago, president of the Nationwide Affiliation of Medical Spanish and founder and quick previous president of the Medical Group for Latino Development.