The Importance of English Language Skills for Healthcare Assistants

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Many people would love the opportunity to work as a front-line caregiver, and have the innate compassion and human ability that it would take for the job. But what about those who are new to Canada or for whom English isn’t their native language?

Stenberg College offers students the unique opportunity to study English as a second language (ESL) while they pursue healthcare assistant training. The Health Care Assistant for ESL Learners program begins with English language studies to provide a solid foundation for English speaking and listening skills. Once students begin the health care assistant program, ongoing English language training is provided to support and improve the quality of their studies.

While communication skills are important in any field, we will take a look at how they apply specifically to a healthcare assistant career.

Providing Companionship

In a healthcare assistant career, you will be spending time with certain patients on a regular basis, providing assistance to older people with varying levels of mobility.

Nobody wants to feel as though they are a burden – even to healthcare providers. Some helpful tips to make your interactions rewarding for both you and your patients would be to:

  • Take the time to ask about their day and really listen to their answers
  • Show them you’re interested about them as individuals by asking about their interests
  • Relate to them when possible (e.g. if they share about their children, share a little about your family)

A sense of companionship helps relieve any stresses or insecurities a patient may have about their illness. A little communication can go a long way in making your patients feel truly cared for.

Communicate Clearly

Clear communication is vital when working with the elderly. It’s important to speak clearly, using an appropriate volume and rate of speech so that your patients can understand you.

Professionals with healthcare assistant training will work with patients whose hearing may have deteriorated with age, so it’s important to be patient even when repeating a sentence several times. Your understanding attitude will go a long way to make the patient feel understood and respected.

Respect Differences

Sometimes you and your patients will have differences in opinion regarding certain views or subjects. Keep in mind that there may be generational or cultural gaps that affect everyone’s outlook on life. It’s important to maintain an attitude of respect and tolerance, and remember that your job is to help the patient with their health.


Allowing patients to communicate in their own way is an important factor too. If for example, they are having difficulty verbally expressing themselves, it is better to give them the space they need and to listen when they are ready.

There is a fine balance between lending a helping hand and having respect for the autonomy of an elderly person. Allow them to speak up and do things that they can still do for themselves, as this will help uphold their sense of dignity in the face of their health problems.

What are some other effective tips for communicating with patients?

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