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About Sickkids
About SickKids

October 27, 2015

Canadian Patient Safety Week: Ask, Listen, Talk

The theme for this year’s Canadian Patient Safety Week is Ask, Listen, Talk.  Healthcare professionals, patients and their families are encouraged to ask questions, listen to the answers, and talk about concerns and ways of improving safety.

As a parent or guardian, we recognize the important role you play as a member of your child’s health-care team. We encourage you to be involved in your child’s care and to partner with us. Learn more about how you can help by visiting our Patient Safety page.

But what happens when there’s a language barrier?  How can patients and families Ask. Listen. Talk. when they have limited English proficiency (LEP) or are deaf, deafened or hard of hearing? 

Studies confirm that patients with a language barrier are more likely to experience disparities in patient safety.1 As we work  to reduce preventable harm through the Caring Safely initiative, it is essential to recognize how a language barrier can impact patient/family comprehension and contribute to serious safety events.

There are multiple ways SickKids supports patients and families with LEP or those with a language barrier.

  • We assess the patient/family’s language preference by asking what language is spoken at home. If the family indicates a language other than English, we ask if they would like an interpreter.
  • We involve Interpreter Services as soon as the need is determined. Interpreter Services provides face-to-face spoken and sign language interpretation services on-site and free of charge.
  • We schedule medical interpreters on a regular basis for LEP patients/families admitted to the hospital.
  • We utilize the Safety Reporting System to identify and track safety events that are related to language barriers so that we can learn and make improvements.

Tip: For immediate, same day requests or for simple and brief information translation, contact Language Services Toronto (LST) at 416-504-4578 to access over-the-phone interpretation available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If you’d like to learn more, complete the SickKids Learning Module: Working Effectively with Healthcare Interpreters, or watch the film “The Journey to Cultural Competence.”

1. http://www.ahrq.gov/professionals/systems/hospital/lepguide/lepguide1.html