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Year : 2015  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 63

Language barriers among psychiatry trainees: An important consideration

Department of Psychiatry and NDDTC, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India

Date of Web Publication9-Nov-2015

Correspondence Address:
Siddharth Sarkar
Department of Psychiatry and and NDDTC, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Ansari Nagar, New Delhi - 110 029
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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How to cite this article:
Gupta R, Sarkar S. Language barriers among psychiatry trainees: An important consideration. J Curr Res Sci Med 2015;1:63

How to cite this URL:
Gupta R, Sarkar S. Language barriers among psychiatry trainees: An important consideration. J Curr Res Sci Med [serial online] 2015 [cited 2021 Jul 30];1:63. Available from: https://www.jcrsmed.org/text.asp?2015/1/1/63/168924

Dear Sir,

Social interaction and communication are a part and parcel of a medical professional's life. Psychiatry is one branch of medicine where effective communication plays the most important role in patient care. In the absence of diagnostic tools, clinical interview is the gold standard to identify various mental disorders in this discipline. A comprehensive patient assessment not only requires good theoretical knowledge, sound clinical skills, empathic and nonjudgmental attitude and effective body language but also proficiency in spoken language used by the patient.[1] Lack of language skills among trainees could result in difficulty in understanding patient's symptoms, poor rapport, difficulty in providing psychotherapy, misunderstandings in treatment related instructions, and occasional misdiagnosis.[1],[2] This problem is especially significant in India considering the fact that a vast number of languages are spoken here and that too in different dialects. This becomes apparent when a medical student or resident joins a hospital where the medium of conversation (with patients, staff and colleagues) is different from their native language. For example, when non-Hindi speakers join medical institutes in north India, they may feel exasperated at their inability to communicate at their workplace. This particular difficulty in free communication adds to the high stress of hectic clinical duties, academic course material and adaptation to the new environment. Majority of the academic training centers in India do not have a structured mechanism for teaching of the local language, though notably a few institutes like AIIMS, New Delhi, NIMHANS, Bangalore and JIPMER, Puducherry provide some extra classes to teach the clinically relevant basics of the local language. Thus, it falls on the trainee to pick-up the language themselves on their own putting extra efforts. Since residents have to deal with patients on a regular basis, therefore, they bear the maximum brunt due to the handicap in language proficiency. Many make an attempt to learn the conversational skills in the local language by seeking help from peers, spending extra time with patients and their relatives, and watching television programs and movies in the local language.

Since the Indian union promotes migration of individuals and ideas from one part of the country to another, trainees would choose places different from their own residence in search of better academic opportunities. Thus, language barriers are expected to occur, in the initial period of the training. One way to counter the situation would be to have local language proficiency tested during the selection process. However, that is impracticable presently due to the multitude of languages spoken in India, and the absence of standardized elective testing facilities for the vernacular languages as compared to International English Language Testing System for English. The other, more practicable option would be to support the trainee in language acquisition through formal classroom-based teaching, and through informal on-the-go kind of banter and tips.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Woloshin S, Bickell NA, Schwartz LM, Gany F, Welch HG. Language barriers in medicine in the United States. JAMA 1995;273:724-8.  Back to cited text no. 1
David RA, Rhee M. The impact of language as a barrier to effective health care in an underserved urban hispanic community. Mt Sinai J Med 1998;65:393-7.  Back to cited text no. 2


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