Healing Lessons from a War Zone
Communication Doesn’t Mean We All Speak the Same Language
One of the greatest obstacles to patient care in a foreign country is communication. Language barriers make it difficult to properly assess patient and understand underlying issues such as pain or mental status. Cultural barriers such as fasting during the month of Ramadan, or the care of women patients by male medics also presented challenges to helping local people during humanitarian operations. During part of one deployment, I worked with a group of Polish medical personnel, though I had far less comprehension of their language than they did mine. Despite these differences, we relied on each others help on numerous occasions. Through these experiences, we developed a level of trust and understanding that stepped over the barrier between us; overcoming that barrier requires effort—and a little faith.
Through the courageous efforts of many interpreters, I have been able to provide assistance to those whom I would be unable to help otherwise. However, when one steps back, and realizes the underlying connection between all humanity, there is a way to see that despite the things that separate us in our daily lives, there is a place where we can come together and work to solve problems. Sometimes listening to a patient goes beyond mere language; it goes to heart of empathy, and being able to connect on another level. Underneath it all, we all have the same human soul.
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