Choosing the right language

Pharmacists are learning to adapt their approach to improve medicine use among culturally diverse communities

Community pharmacists working in culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities have demonstrated how they are helping their patients to understand the language of medicines, as part of the NPS Be Medicinewise Week (19-25 August).

During the week NPS MedicineWise is working together with pharmacists in CALD communities to help all Australians to understand the language of medicines, to get the most out of them and to do so with safety. Pharmacists have many tips to help people from diverse backgrounds to be medicinewise, NPS said.

“Language barriers are the most obvious part, but there are cultural differences to deal with as well,” said Veronica Nou, a pharmacist working at Oxley Park in Sydney’s western suburbs.

People of differing CALD backgrounds may find topics such as mental or sexual health much harder to discuss, she says.

“They may be reluctant to question something, admit they do not understand or that they need help at all.

These issues, as well as problems understanding medicine information mean I’ve had to intervene with a woman spraying her asthma puffer on her chest instead of inhaling it, a young woman drinking her antifungal cream, and a mother ending up in hospital because she mistakenly was using too many of her antidepressants. She has little to no English and relied on her school age kids to translate for her,” she says.

Curtis Ruhnau, PDL NSW local advisory committee member owns a pharmacy at Blacktown, in Sydney’s west, a community where over 150 languages are spoken.

“Be patient. Give people time to absorb the information and convert to their own language and ask any questions they may have,” he advised.

“In our pharmacy, we keep a chart of important common terms in different languages such as ‘take once a day’, ‘take with meals’ and so on,” said Cecilia Yoon, a Korean-speaking pharmacist in Strathfield, NSW.

NPS MedicineWise advsies that pharmacies can access their Free Interpreting Service to provide community pharmacy services and for programs delivered under the 6th Community Pharmacy Agreement by calling 131 450.

The NPS Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) provides an immediate phone interpreting service 24 hours a day, every day of the year to non-English speakers (in the majority of cases), regardless of their cultural and linguistic backgrounds (CALD), by calling 131 450.

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1 Comment

  1. Ron Batagol

    Agreed- the issue of communication to culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities is obviously critically important. But, in addition, pharmacists (and all other health professionals), should keep in mind the need to discuss medication issues with ALL patients who may not be conversant with medical and medication terminology, in plain English, with the use of medical and medication-related jargon kept to a minimum, so that they fully understand the important facts about the dosage and safety issues for the medications that they will be taking.

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