Changi General Hospital nurses use app to overcome language barrier in wards

Changi General Hospital (CGH) has developed a phone app to help nurses communicate with Cantonese-speaking patients and it will be rolled out in all wards on Aug 1, or Nurses Day. -- PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM YOUTUBE
Changi General Hospital (CGH) has developed a phone app to help nurses communicate with Cantonese-speaking patients and it will be rolled out in all wards on Aug 1, or Nurses Day. -- PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM YOUTUBE

SINGAPORE- Changi General Hospital (CGH) has developed a phone app to help nurses communicate with Cantonese-speaking patients and it will be rolled out in all wards on Aug 1, or Nurses Day.

So if a nurse wants to tell a patient "Please place this tablet under your tongue" in Cantonese for example, all he or she has to do is to find the phrase using the app and it will be read out by the smartphone in the dialect.

Developed by nine CGH nurses with a grant of $10,000, the app called iCOM was piloted in March this year in two geriatric wards. It has 100 stock phrases including "What is your name?" It comes with helpful pictures for slightly more complex concepts too. For instance, if a nurse wants to tell the patient that he will be put on intravenous drip, a picture of the drip appears along with the dialect voice-over.

Translation is now available only in Cantonese but there are plans to expand it to Malay, Hokkien, Hakka and Hainanese, as well as add 300 more stock phrases.

The app reads out "I am giving you an injection" in Cantonese.

The app helps nurses to overcome the language barrier. One in two nurses in CGH are under age 35 and many of them do not speak dialects. Two in five seek translation help from a colleague daily. Nurses often had to communicate with dialect-speaking patients by gesturing to them like playing charades.

Said Ms Sheree Ye, 22, a nurse who has tried the app: "Previously when patients did not understand us, they may get frustrated and not follow instructions. With this, they understand us much better, we spend less time on trying to communicate and we have more time for other patients too."