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Communication problems

March 5, 2013

Physiotherapists are only as good as the information provided. I have had a rather frustrating day today with a lot of clients who do not have English as a first language. It is frustrating…  not with the individuals concerned but with the impotence resulting from the inability to do my job and help the client to the best of my ability because they cannot tell me what their problem is and I cannot explain to them what my opinion is and my suggestions to rectify that problem. I feel much more frustrated when the client has lived in England for many a year and not grasped the basics of the English language to ensure that they are well looked after in their time of need. To a lesser extent the same feeling exists when a client has researched the Internet using ‘buzz’ words and phrases to look for a diagnosis of their problem BEFORE they have seen me; invariably they have got the wrong end of the stick and I end up spending valuable time deprogramming embeded ‘dodgy’ beliefs before putting 2 and 2 together to make some sense out of their problem and formulate an effective management programme. I always say wait until the Physiotherapist has been seen, given a clear indication of what the problem before you do the research. This saves time and bother in the long run and ensures that you remain in control of what is going on! I have 12 golden rules on my website www.askaphysio.com; its worth taking a look if you intend to see a Physiotherapist in the near future.

Anyway I digress slightly. I made a decision today and that was instead of increasing the possibility of giving the wrong treatment or wrong advice (and the likelihood of being sued), I would ask clients who can not communicate in a manner that would enable me to get their consent for treatment, offer my services for treatment and understand the underlying problem for which they present to me and thus engage in the management of the problem, to return at another date with a relative who could interpret on their behalf. By the way, at one point a particular client wanted me to have a three way conversation with a mobile phone! I naturally declined. 

I know this may sound a bit trivial but if I had a medical problem whilst abroad I would ensure that I had somebody with me who could ensure that the Doctors or any other health professional understood what I was saying. Relying on the Hospital etc to understand me is like playing a mild form of Russian roulette if you ask me!

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