Language barrier and its implications for practice in Kuwait prehospital settings

Objectives: The purpose of this research was to explore the implications of language barrier among emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics in a prehospital setting in Kuwait. Methods: A small-scale exploratory case study was carried out using a qualitative method. Focus group interviews were conducted with prehospital providers in Kuwait. An inductive thematic analysis was performed whereby themes and sub-themes emerged from within the data. Results: The data revealed that language barrier has a direct effect on healthcare delivery with implications for an unpleasant patient experience, time delay and misdiagnosis; professional implications which include the need to enhance learning through communication and training to improve practice and support with translation; and personal implications including declining efficiency level, negative socio-emotional impact and physiologic response. Conclusion: This study contributes to the scarcity of available research determining the effects and implications of language barrier for EMTs and paramedics in a prehospital setting in Kuwait. It brings the deficiencies of the Kuwait emergency medical services (EMS) to light, as language disparities affect prehospital providers and their quality of work. Strategies for overcoming the language barrier, implemented by the respondents in this study, form a basis for the Kuwait EMS to address unexplored issues that could potentially improve prehospital practice. While the findings may not be generalisable, they may be transferable to other areas of practice with comparable situations where healthcare providers face challenges when communicating with their patients.

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