How can I communicate with foreigners

Foreign colleagues - 7 tips for communication

Certainly one can discuss whether the language requirements for nurses and doctors from abroad do not have to be higher. The Society for Quality Management in Health Care (GQMG) calls for professional recognition as a nurse to be linked to language level C1 in the future and not to be satisfied with level B2 or B1.

But nobody knows if and when the GQMG will prevail with its demand. In addition, even if a foreign nurse has more “specialized language skills” as required: This does not mean that she can understand sentences quickly and perhaps even indistinctly spoken sentences right away. Therefore, as a native speaker, it never hurts to take initiative and rethink your own communication habits.

Petra Rahn, teacher for "German as a Foreign Language" and managing director of the educational professionals who offer German courses specifically for nursing staff, summarizes the most important tips:

Tip 1: Be attentive, watch yourself

Make sure you speak slowly and clearly and look at the other person as you speak. This is how you can also tell whether you have been understood.

  • Do not share important information in passing
  • Do not swallow syllables
  • Observe yourself and see if you would understand yourself if you were a foreigner.
  • Also in the group, be sure to speak clearly. See it as a challenge - the patients will thank you too.

Tip 2: Speak more slowly, not louder

If a native speaker has the feeling that the other person does not understand him, he tends to speak louder. But it is better to speak more slowly, because it is important for the other person to grasp the meaning of what is being said.

Tip 3: formulate clear sentences

  • Avoid passive sentences. Instead of: "The blood pressure has to be measured twice a day", better: "Measure the blood pressure twice a day."
  • Please do not nominalize verbs, this makes understanding extremely difficult. So not: “I'll take care of the medication now”, but rather: “I will now provide the medication”. Not: “Has someone already taken care of the wound care?” But: “Has someone taken care of the turnaround?”.
  • It is also very important to leave out hidden (double) negations. Her Müller is not one of those patients for whom blood pressure does not have to be measured three times a day. "
  • Avoid long, nested sentences (the doctor, who only came to us last year, told me yesterday when I was sitting with him in the canteen that ...), choose simple and clear sentence constructions.

Tip 4: be patient

  • Repeat your statement whenever the other person looks questioningly or unsure.
  • Allow time for questions.

Tip 5: improve effectively

If you correct your counterpart: Don't repeat the mistake, say what the correct name is.

6. Tip: Avoid shortages

Please do not shorten the sentences! Say "If patients are moved, the beds will stay on the ward". And not: “If patients are moved, the beds remain on the ward.” Leave little (preferably no) room for interpretation in your sentences. For example, always name the people involved, avoid pronouns (she, he, it), make the references clear, avoid unclear location information (there, there).

7. Tip: Rely on read-back

It is best to get used to the read-back with all of your colleagues. This means: all information concerning treatment and medication etc. is repeated (in their own words) by the person who receives it. This avoids misunderstandings that endanger patient safety.

The read-back comes from the aviation industry, but is also being practiced in more and more hospitals, such as the Vinzentius Hospital in Landau in Rhineland-Palatinate.

Text: Kirsten Gaede