English Only, Please? [Updated]

This is interesting. Acme Regional’s Emergency Department has a fairly diverse population of staff nurses and physicians, in a city and region that’s the most multicultural on earth. I have never heard anyone speak anything but English in a professional capacity, except on those occasions when the patient happens to speak the same language. I think it’s precisely because Toronto is so multicultural that English is the lingua franca — it’s the only language everybody speaks. Now, I have heard Jamaican-Canadian nurses mock each other in Patois, but that’s part of the aural wallpaper in Toronto in any case, and not very remarkable despite being very funny.

These discussions, to me anyway, nearly always exist in a racist* context, i.e. “speak white” or “speak English or go home.”  This makes them suspect immediately. For this reason I think attempting to implement any “English only” policy would be counterproductive and ultimately futile, besides being unnecessary and inflammatory. And probably illegal as well — I mean how do you enforce such the thing without looking like a bigoted ass? Do you just pick on the nurses? What about the Chinese physicians having a conversation in Cantonese?

[UPDATE] Just realized the link provided requires registration and such. Sorry. But do check out the comments if you’re inclined to register — they’re fascinating.  Here’s the money quote:

Yesterday morning, the entire day shift consisted of nurses from the Philippines, so all one heard was the Tagalog dialect, especially during the change of shift report. As I was giving report I felt like I wasn’t even being listened to by the morning nurse. Ahh- I thought why am I even bothering to give report when others seem to be preoccupied on not missing out on the Filipino conversation going on, which had to do to with the recent floods and typhoons outside Manila.

Add in a mixture of Creole and Spanish and you have the melting pot re-emerging in the ICU.

Are there any medical facilities that have instituted an “English, please only speaking policy” especially during the change of shift and nurse to nurse reports?

What are your thoughts about this topic? Should there be such a policy?


*Yes, I am going to drop the “R-bomb” because yes, racism does exist, even in multicultural Toronto, and racist nurses are nursing’s dirty little secret — something we never acknowledge, much less talk about.


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