Nurses and other healthcare professionals around the world are helping individuals, families and communities understand COVID-19, its potential impact and what they should be doing to prevent its spread.
However, as we live in a multicultural and diverse world where people speak different languages and dialects, communicating this vital information is not always straightforward.
Globalisation has resulted in increased migration within and between countries, and while this has a lot of benefits, it also brings challenges associated with language and communication.
Language proficiency is particularly important when it comes to an individual being able to convey their needs to another person, such as a healthcare professional. Likewise, healthcare professionals find it difficult to convey information to someone who is not proficient in their language. These difficulties in communication create barriers that can contribute to health inequalities.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the impact of these issues as language barriers thwart the attempts of healthcare professionals to engage with the public and convey public health messages with consistent information. Parveen Ali, a Pakistani born and trained nurse who lives in United Kingdom, runs a weekly radio programme on a local radio called Link FM 96.7 (see the case study about the radio programme in the IND publication Nurses: A Voice to Lead – Nursing the World to Health). The aim of the radio programme is to provide relevant healthcare information to members of the south Asian population in the UK who are able to communicate in Urdu/ Hindi. The idea is to provide authentic information from credible healthcare professionals in an easy to understand language.
Dr Ali and her colleagues have continued to work voluntarily through this period of crises delivering relevant programmes focusing on COVID-19, its signs and symptoms, impact on individuals and what can be done to prevent the spread. They have broadcast programmes on the mental health effects of COVID-19 and what can be done to minimise its impact.
Since February 2020, they have produced several programmes on these issues, which have been viewed or listened to by nearly 30,000 people via Facebook videos and live radio transmissions. While the programmes are aimed at people living in and around Sheffield in northern England, where there is a large south Asian population, live broadcast on social media means that people in other cities in the UK, and in countries are also benefiting from the programmes.
This initiative demonstrates that modern day nurses can use their knowledge and skills innovatively and contribute to health promotion, disease prevention and dissemination of information. By doing so they not only fulfil their duties as healthcare professionals, but act as leaders and, by so doing, portray an attractive image of the nursing profession.