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Health services across the world are on the one hand the most regulated of all professions, the workforce planning is the most advanced and the restrictions on licence to practice most stringent, especially across borders- yet the workforce is dependent on the ability of large scale movement of professionals across nation-states. The UK NHS has over 41% of its doctors and a quarter of all nurses who were born / trained overseas. This is not much different to many other advanced health systems.
It is also recognised that patient outcomes, recruitment and retention of healthcare professionals who are in great demand depends on autonomy, job satisfaction and a sense of value, equality and a just environment.
A fundamental tenet of equality, celebrating diversity and inclusion is how organisation or society deals with the immigrant professionals or ‘foreigners’. The ability to correctly pronounce ‘foreign’ names is one of the fundamental and most obvious demonstration of respect one accords to a fellow human.
There is a long standing practice of transfiguring foreign sounding names to anglicised or westernized versions for ease of use. The westernization of foreign names is predominantly imposed by the dominant segments of populations on those considered inferior. There is clear evidence of social inequalities linked to one’s race, ethnicity, immigration and gender. Transfiguring one’s name is a clear example of such discrimination, microaggression and a form of bias.
It is time that we understood the impact of such microaggressions of colleagues and our patients. It should be vital for all professionals to take the time and attention needed to get the pronunciation right and in the process understand the cultural diversity, identity and demonstrate due respect and equality. It is also imperative on those of us with foreign sounding names that we help colleagues navigate the rich heritage of our culture and identity and do so with humility. It can only then be a win-win for all.
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