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to think that nurses working in the UK should have a good standard of spoken English?

(48 Posts)
AKMD Tue 20-Sep-11 21:53:42

I had a serious op a couple of weeks ago followed by a week's stay on a ward. The day I was due to go home I had a nurse in charge of my bay who was from another EU country but whose English wasn't to a high enough standard to enable her to:

a) be handed over to properly by the nurse leacing form the night shift; she was continually getting confused over which patient was which and what was wrong with them;
b) explain to me how to change my wound dressings;
c) tell me what the drugs I was being sent home with were for;
d) answer the question I asked rather than a question that I hadn't but was vaguely related to a few words I said;
e) communicate effectively with the very old and confused (dementia?) woman in the bed next to me, who got really upset because she didn't understand what was happening to her.

AIBU to think that nurses working in the UK should have a high enough standard of spoken English to do a, b, c, d and e? In my whole stay I only met one native English nurse but the last one was the only one who had a language problem.

AKMD Tue 20-Sep-11 21:54:08

leaving from sorry!

Mightimama Tue 20-Sep-11 21:55:57

YANBU - Im all for equal rights but it does make it very hard/impossible to communicate without a translator....

Sirzy Tue 20-Sep-11 21:56:01

YANBU. They should have to speak english to a standard that they can be understood by the patients as communication is such a key role in the job

slavetofilofax Tue 20-Sep-11 21:57:32

YANBU. You would think that in a caring role, communication skills would be very near the top of the list of requirements. It is unfair on her, her colleagues and the patients.

LRDTheFeministDragon Tue 20-Sep-11 22:31:37

Are you sure she was a nurse? Sorry, sounds silly I know, but nursing is a graduate profession, so if she was educated here, she surely must have had good enough English to do that, and if she was educated abroad, she'd have to pass the English requirements to get a work visa. I wonder if maybe she was some other kind of supporting role? It does seem very odd and very poor that she couldn't make herself understood. Did you complain?

AKMD Tue 20-Sep-11 22:34:08

Yes, she was definitely a nurse. Her English was good enough for her to tell someone else what she wanted to say, but not good enough to understand what was being said to her so that she could respond appropriately. If that makes any sense... I didn't complain because I had already complained about another member of staff for something far more serious and I wanted that complaint to be taken seriously rather than chlked up to a serial-complainer IYSWIM.

BakeliteBelle Tue 20-Sep-11 22:36:46

That's really dreadful. Probably a sign of how desperate staffing issues are in some areas in the NHS. Not good

Maisiethemorningsidecat Tue 20-Sep-11 22:37:06


Robert Winston wrote a very good article about this recently. Apparently the Govt's hands are tied because of some EU directive which means that nurses (and others) should be allowed to travel and work freely, with no assessments of either language or technical skills. Not sure about what happens to non-EU workers, but completey agree with you AKMD.

worraliberty Tue 20-Sep-11 22:37:17

YANBU its the same for anyone working with the general public

You need to be able to communicate effectively.

kelly2000 Tue 20-Sep-11 22:39:44

If she was from the EU she has an automatic right to work here and if her qualifications are from the EU she has an automatic right to have them recognized here. I could be wrong, but I have a feeling it is up to either the hospital or local health authority to decide if their english is good enough, there is no national standard.
It is nothing to do with equal rights, language abilty is a skill just like any other including nursing and she did not posess that skill.

Pseudonym99 Tue 20-Sep-11 22:42:32

Well, if nurses cannot make themselves understood, then any consent you give will be invalid. Therefore if you are not happy do not sign any consent forms or anything of that nature.

Ismeyes Tue 20-Sep-11 22:44:25

Nursing is not yet an all graduate profession actually. They have phased out the diploma of higher education for nursing for new students but do not have the funds and spare staff to top up the existing workforce who do not have degrees.

Although if you think nurses' language skills can be bad, consider the doctors who are equally as bad.

worraliberty Tue 20-Sep-11 22:47:11

I have to say in all my life I have never met a foreign Doctor or Consultant who hasn't spoken excellent English.

Sometimes the accent can be a little hard to understand but IME they tend to be aware of that so slow/tone it down.

redwineformethanks Tue 20-Sep-11 22:47:14

I had similar problem when my daughter was discharged after plastic surgery. The Doctor was trying to tell me what to do / what to look out for and I was embarrassed that I couldn't understand him. Eventually the nurse said she would explain after he left us and he continued with his rounds.

babynamesgrrrrrrrrrrrrr Tue 20-Sep-11 22:50:30

YANBU but the hospital would prefer to hire people with good English I'm sure, so there clearly aren't enough candidates and second to the perfect candidate they have to choose someone who can do the job.

If I were abroad I would still choose to go to a doctor who wouldn't understand me over no doctor at all

Driftwood999 Tue 20-Sep-11 23:00:35

Mightimama I'm not sure what you mean by "equal rights"? The context of the OP's post, is a patient being in a vulnerable position, yet aware (thankfully) of the shortcomings in quality of care and that of another patient.

AKMD Tue 20-Sep-11 23:03:51

babynames I would expect communication with the patient to be a vital part of the job description. If she had been discharging the lady in the bed next to me, she would have gone home without a clue what to do and could have become really ill again.

Driftwood999 Tue 20-Sep-11 23:06:03

OK, having caught up with some of the comments, I now understand it's about the EU! and beyond!

ggirl Tue 20-Sep-11 23:07:21

Excellent communication skills are the most important skills a nurse has.
I ama nurse and would never consider working somewhere that I could not converse in the language at the highest level.
There is a shortage of nursing posts atm , loads of newly qualified nurses without jobs ,beggars belief why they hire someone without basic skills

FootballFriendSays Tue 20-Sep-11 23:11:07

Of course YANBU.

I'm concerned, however, about your first point "handed over to properly by the nurse leacing form the night shift; she was continually getting confused over which patient was which and what was wrong with them" as you shouldn't be able to overhear that kind of stuff, patient confidentiality and all that.

AKMD Tue 20-Sep-11 23:15:14

NHS unfortunately Football. The bay only had 4 beds but the privacy curtain wasn't sound-proof.

babynamesgrrrrrrrrrrrrr Tue 20-Sep-11 23:17:42

AKMD it may be that it was this woman or no nurse at all is the point I am making.

ggirl Tue 20-Sep-11 23:38:37

was she an agency nurse
sounds like she was unfamiliar with bed numbers etc which makes handover difficult
agree that bed handovers are crap for pt confidentiality but tbh conifdentiality for pts in a bay is crap anyway

Pseudonym99 Wed 21-Sep-11 01:03:57

They cannot even keep door codes for vulnerable patients secret.

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