1. Raso, Rosanne RN, CNAA, MS

Article Content

Q I'm the supervisor of many Filipino nurses. I've received reports from patients that the nurses often speak their native language between themselves and the patients aren't aware of what they're saying. How should I handle this situation?


This is a very real and honest question for everyone working in a diverse community where staff, patients, and physicians are multicultural. My organization intentionally hires bilingual staff so that we can meet patient and family needs in a culturally competent way. It's natural for staff to converse in their native language, and I've received similar complaints not only from patients, but also from staff.


English-only policies have been challenged federally and can only be established for business necessity or safety. The general position of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regarding English-only policies in a workplace with non-English speaking employees is that it constitutes national origin discrimination in violation of Title VII.1,2 That's food for thought in terms of our seemingly cultural intolerance for language conflict.


In handling this situation, I would be honest and tell your Filipino nurses that you've received patient complaints. Then have a discussion with them on why they think patients would be uncomfortable. End by asking them to refrain from conversations in their native language when others are within hearing distance to avoid misperceptions. You're really relying on their sense of courtesy and respect to comply. Your organization should steer clear of language restrictions as a matter of policy.




1. United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Discriminatory practices. [Context Link]


2. Braun Consulting News. English-only policy issues. [Context Link]