Nova Scotia - During a crisis or when anxiety is high, those who are affected will often revert back to their first language.
Gisele Thibodeau, a registered nurse and teacher of the licensed practical nursing program at NSCC Burridge, has seen this happen many times.
Thibodeau is also the president of Réseau Santé Nouvelle-Écosse, a non-profit organization with a mission of improving access to health and wellness services in French to Acadians and francophones in Nova Scotia.
In mid-May the organization launched the Bonjour/Hello project, a provincial initiative that provides health professionals with a tool kit to inform patients that French speaking staff is available.
The kit includes table tent brochures for receptionists, a poster, window cling signs, cards and pins.
There’s even a provincial online directory of French-speaking health-care professionals.
Réseau Santé is celebrating its 16th anniversary this month at its AGM in Halifax.
The majority of funding for the organization is from Health Canada, with some funding for the Bonjour/Hello initiative from Acadian Affairs and Francophonie Nova Scotia.
Although the Nova Scotia Health Authority has a similar program - the Bonjour program - it focuses on the Nova Scotia Health Authority and the IWK.
Thibodeau says that left nothing for the community: family physicians, dentists’ offices, optometrists, naturopaths, osteopaths, physiotherapy clinics, VON, long-term care facilities and many other health services outside of N.S. Health Authority.
“It’s been proven that services in your language of choice have better health outcomes,” said Thibodeau.
“It makes patients feel more comfortable, they can express themselves better and it makes a trusting relationship.
“I know as a nurse, when I speak French to my patients, it changes the whole attitude. You can see the stress go down and they’re more at ease. It’s proven to shorten hospital stays. What happens when there is a barrier with language, stays tend to be a little bit longer. Doctors seem to be more cautious so they might even order more tests. Sometimes if you can just ask the right question in the right language and get that communication it’s way quicker,” she said.
Bonjour/hello tools can be ordered free of charge by people working in the health field by contacting the health network co-ordinator responsible for their region in Nova Scotia, at the coordinates posted on the Réseau Santé website.