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Nurses let books do the talking

Photo: RDNS' Rosemarie Draper works on a talking book
Nurses at the Royal District Nursing Service (RDNS) will soon be using two new talking books to overcome language barriers with another culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) community.

The RDNS, which provides health care to people from more than 150 countries, has developed Italian, Greek and Macedonian talking books on diabetes.

The organisation is now developing Vietnamese talking books for diabetes and dementia.

The new talking books will be released early next year, after the RDNS worked with members of the Australian Vietnamese Women’s Association and Melbourne’s Vietnamese community to ensure the books’ content is language and culture appropriate for older people.

RDNS diabetes senior clinical nurse advisor Tracy Aylen said RDNS nurses are able to access the talking books, an audio visual multimedia product, on their tablet devices to help convey vital health information to clients.

Ms Aylen, a nurse of 30 years, said the books are easily accessible and also assist people with low school and literacy levels as well as vision impairments.

“Even within the general Australian community, research has identified that issues with health literacy probably occur with about 60 per cent of the Australian population generally,” she said.

“We know that when there’s language barriers or issues for people not having had the opportunities for schooling that perhaps some of their peers or other people from different backgrounds might have had, that those barriers are then additional.

“The ability to be able to grasp the key concepts around diabetes care and then build on those concepts, so that they get the best possible health outcomes, is really important.

“It also means that there’s more equity and access of information as well.”

Ms Aylen said while anyone can access the talking books online at the RDNS website, the information in the books is designed to be delivered in the presence of a health professional.

“That way, if the person has any questions there can be an interchange of information and also obviously for people from non-English speaking backgrounds we also recommend the use of a qualified interpreter so that there’s a comprehensive exchange of information,” she said.

“The idea is that nurses can tailor the information for that particular client’s needs.

“The person might have, for example, a good understanding of the basics around diabetes…but they may not have an understanding of the different people in the health care team or they may not understand about the best way to look after their feet.

“What we can do with this process is pull out the relevant information and concentrate on that so it’s meeting the needs of that particular individual and their carer.”

Ms Aylen said the talking books have not only assisted nurses in their work, they’ve also received positive feedback from CALD communities and clients.

“There’s been good feedback from people that it’s understandable, it helps them in terms of communicating back with their GP and other people that they might be seeing,” she said.

“It helps them to not only understand how to better look after their diabetes because, after all, the person with diabetes and the family are the people doing the vast majority of the work from day to day.

“It also helps them in terms of understanding how the system can help them, it helps them to understand about their blood tests, about the role of the different people in the team and the sorts of things that they can do personally to help improve their health.”

The RDNS Institute, including Dr Susan Koch, Dr Di Goeman and dementia specialist nurse, Jordan King, has also been involved in developing the Vietnamese dementia talking book.


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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords