Mind the language gap! A barrier in paediatric palliative care?

ONLY 71 DAYS TO #EAPC2019 …  AHEAD OF THE 16TH WORLD CONGRESS OF THE EUROPEAN ASSOCIATION FOR PALLIATIVE CARE TO BE HELD IN BERLIN, GERMANY, 23 TO 25 MAY 2019, WE BRING YOU SOME SPECIAL POSTS TO WELCOME YOU TO BERLIN.

Today, Professor Dr B Zernikow and Larissa Dreier Paediatric Palliative Care Centre, Children’s and Adolescents’ Hospital, Datteln (Witten/Herdecke University), Germany, describe an important project to assess the language skills of children’s parents in order to better plan for treatment and further studies.

Professor Dr Boris Zernikow and Larissa Dreier.

Since our Paediatric Palliative Care Centre (PPC) in Datteln, Germany, was established in 2010, we have treated patients with various illnesses, family histories and cultural backgrounds. Although cultural diversity brings with it the potential of expanding personal horizons and gaining new experiences, it can also present obstacles for the team and the families involved. The communication with families who do not, or only poorly, speak German can be difficult for both sides, resulting in misunderstandings, dissatisfaction and mistrust. To close the language gap, care facilities, such as our PPC centre, must first be aware of the languages spoken by the families with whom they regularly deal.

This year, in order to obtain precise numbers for our centre, we have started an initial project on the languages spoken by parents admitted to our care unit and their respective German language skills. Questions we would like to answer are: What languages do the parents admitted to our care unit during this one-year period speak? In case German is not the parents’ first language – how are their German language skills? In order to obtain an assessment that is as representative as possible for our institution, we ask employees from various professional fields to rate the parents’ language proficiency.

We expect the results, which have been available since the end of December 2018, to provide us with an initial point of reference on which we can base, for example, treatment and study planning. In the context of treatment planning this could, for instance, lead to interpreter assignments being requested and planned more foresightedly and thus more efficiently.

Regarding study planning, language data help to anticipate possible dropouts in sample size planning. The 16th World Congress of the European Association for Palliative Care (23 to 25 May 2019 in Berlin, Germany) #EAPC 2019 – with a special Children’s Palliative Care Seminar – seems to be the best place to discuss these first results.

We are aware that language data alone cannot be used to make comprehensive statements about cultural aspects in PPC. Nevertheless, we see our project as an entry into an exciting and important field of research that, in the long term, should aim to create solutions to barriers due to cultural differences and thus improve PPC in this context.

We hope to welcome you to Berlin in May and particularly to the Children’s Palliative Care Seminar on Thursday 23 May.

Join us at the Global challenges in Paediatric Palliative Care: An EAPC Seminar – Thursday May 23, 2019 at 08:00 to 18:15, at the 16th EAPC World Congress. Download the programme here. Delegates who wish to attend only the Paediatric Palliative Care Seminar pay a day rate. Register here.

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