As part of my role to ensure equity in our programmes I joined our staff ‘Faith and Belief’ group, the groups purpose is to promote open conversations about faith and belief with our students.
I developed Faith and Belief CPD sessions to promote these conversations, which were very well attended. Most students were grateful to have a place to talk openly about their own faith and contributed to heartfelt and spirited discussions about religion, understanding and belonging.
As the conversation flowed the students began to focus on their experiences of health professionals’ support of patients with religious beliefs in practice. We discussed both the lack of understanding and awareness in some cases but also the experiences of staff (and students) that had shown a considered approach to religion and culture and who try their utmost to ensure positive patient experiences. A conversation about language blossomed.
One student told a story of how a patient was known to speak only Arabic and this was recorded on the patients x-ray request card. The student received the request card and luckily enough could speak Arabic. She opened the x-ray room door and greeted the patient in Arabic, the patient, who initially appeared incredibly anxious, visibly relaxed and was very grateful to be able to communicate without difficulty. The story shared about this experience touched the whole group.
I reflected on this session and questioned why these encounters should be left to chance? I contemplated whether there was a way that imaging staff, students and patients could positively identify the languages that they are able to speak.
I then thought back to my family holiday in Disneyland, all of the staff have flags on their badges symbolising which languages they can speak, if you see a British flag you can approach them and speak freely, why not do this in healthcare? Imagine how much anxiety this could relieve for patients.
Our student badge supplier was contacted, and a design was returned which included a flag, with potential space for 2 flags. We were absolutely delighted by the design and pursued the approval for change with University subgroups to have the idea finalised.
From September 2021 all students will be asked if they would like flags added to their badge, and if so which flags. The flag will represent which languages the student can speak but can also be added to represent the student’s origin. This small change will hopefully have a positive impact on patients in practice but will also enable students to share their identity. This idea will hopefully prompt conversations to be started between students, staff and patients.
While faith and language are not always intrinsically linked, there is a central essential link of respect, belonging and communication. Our students made this link and inspired positive change.
Belonging is at the centre of this story, creating opportunity for belonging and celebrating our multifaith and diverse culture. A small change has the potential to make a big difference.