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CULTURAL COMPETENCY STILL STRUGGLES TO BE HEARD
continued on pg. 78
understand me. The reasons to avoid using
children as translators are solely for the
protection of children. These include “
putting the child in the parental role, possibly
conveying the wrong message because the
child’s emotional or cognitive understanding may not yet be mature, or leaving something out because they fear their parents’
suffering.” 13-15 We have to do what is in the
best interests of patients. When it comes
down to patients not knowing what we are
saying or asking their child to help, in my
opinion, we should use our best judgment.
A simple sentence may be, “Tell your mom
it is very important that she have someone
who can interpret our recommendations
from today and to call us,” and then follow
up if you do not receive a call back.
If there is no access to support staff in
the language you need, seek out phone or
computer interpretation. How many of us
pull out our cell phones to use Google
Translator? Sometimes it is not on point
with the varying dialects, yet in a pinch we
do what we can. It is helpful to know the
most common languages of your patient
population in order to be prepared. If you
learn your patient cannot communicate
with you, it causes stress to have to trou-
bleshoot during the 30- or 50-minute ap-
pointment. This can lead to clinical errors,
improper documentation, or losing the
patient. There are ways to change the dental
and medical histories and consent forms
into other languages. 16-18 If your practice has
not had any instances of cultural and lin-
guistic challenges, this will likely change.
“The minority population is projected to
rise to 56% of the total population in 2060,
compared with 38% in 2014.” 19
DIGGING FOR ANSWERS
As dental hygienists, one of our jobs is leading
patients towards health, oral and systemic,
through prevention and education. We should
not force patients into specific diets or ask
them not to consume things they like. Even
with smoking, I do my best to educate pa-
tients on the havoc it wreaks on their health.
When they start hacking, I remind myself
that they most likely already know how bad
smoking is. I let them know I’m here for
them when they’re ready to cease the habit.
“Until you are ready to stop, how about you
try this (…) to protect what you have left?”
I’ve treated many adolescents of various
nationalities with black line stain. They
were all swimmers. I learned their exposure
to daily chlorine was a contributing factor
for their stain. My point is that not every
patient has textbook signs and not everything I see is in a textbook. This is why
clinical judgment remains the other part
of evidence-based dentistry. 20 We must
sometimes dig for answers, and that’s hard
to do with language and cultural differences, as well as with the brief time we are
allotted to see these patients.