Original Research

Experiences of language barriers by homoeopathy student interns providing health services at the University of Johannesburg

Lorna Blackwell, Neil T. Gower, Reshma Patel
Health SA Gesondheid | Vol 26 | a1491 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hsag.v26i0.1491 | © 2021 Lorna Blackwell, Neil T. Gower, Reshma Patel | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 03 June 2020 | Published: 29 March 2021

About the author(s)

Lorna Blackwell, Department of Complementary Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa
Neil T. Gower, Department of Complementary Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa
Reshma Patel, Department of Complementary Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: South Africa is a multilingual society, and therefore, the likelihood of healthcare providers (HCPs), including students training to be HCPs, encountering language barriers with patients is high.

Aim: To explore and describe the experiences of homoeopathy student interns regarding language barriers in the delivery of health services and to provide guidance towards overcoming language barriers in homoeopathic practice at the University of Johannesburg (UJ).

Setting: The interviews and focus group discussions were conducted in English and at a private location that was convenient for the participants in Johannesburg, Gauteng.

Methods: This qualitative study used a phenomenological approach. Ten individual interviews were conducted with registered homoeopathy student interns (HSIs) from the UJ. The central question: ‘What has your experience been regarding language barriers between you and your patients at the UJ Homoeopathy clinics?’ was asked and responses were recorded and transcribed for later analysis. The interview results were presented to a focus group for discussion to validate findings that arose from the analysis and to provide an opportunity to add any insight, comment or recommendations that were not expressed in individual interviews and verification of emergent themes.

Results: Participants described how language barriers create challenges in understanding between patients and HSIs. Descriptions of the experiences of the intrapersonal and interpersonal effects that are associated with language barriers were provided. Participants also described the influence of language barriers on the various aspects of the health service process. Finally, participants described the mitigation of language barriers through various strategies.

Conclusion: Participants reported their experiences of language barriers as challenging. Language barriers were found to adversely affect the various aspects of the health service process as well as the practitioner’s personal feelings and the patient–practitioner relationship. Language acquisition and awareness modules introduced early on in the syllabus is a proposed solution to the mitigation of language barriers.


Keywords

communication; healthcare delivery; healthcare process; healthcare provider; homoeopathy; health services; interpreter; language barriers

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