Paramedic designs international translator to communicate with patients

Paramedic James Shearer’s Emergency Medical Translator is a booklet that contains nine languages and allows patients to point and use yes or no answers


SUNSHINE COAST, British Columbia — A paramedic created a new tool to communicate with patients who don’t speak English.

The Vancouver Sun reported that paramedic James Shearer’s Emergency Medical Translator is a plastic booklet containing nine languages that allows patients to point and use yes or no answers.

“The idea came through my lack of understanding other languages, pretty much,” Shearer said. “The vast majority of calls are medical, not trauma, and for those kind of calls you need to find out what is going on inside the patient.”

A paramedic compiled a new tool to communicate with patients who don’t speak English. (Photo/Indiegogo)
A paramedic compiled a new tool to communicate with patients who don’t speak English. (Photo/Indiegogo)

The booklet fits in a shirt pocket and contains Punjabi, Chinese (written to encompass Mandarin and Cantonese), Korean, Persian (Farsi), Spanish, Arabic, French, Hindi and Vietnamese – as well as 11 pages of symbols.

“When a patient doesn’t speak English, it’s a big challenge because you can’t get information you need and you can’t give a hospital the information they’re asking for,” Shearer said.

Tourists who visit the area “explore every corner” of the province, not just “large cities,” according to Shearer.

“Access to translators is even scarcer in rural areas,” he said.

Shearer is raising money to create more of the booklets on Indiegogo, and plans to sell them for around $35.

“There are English-speaking paramedics around the world who face language problems all the time. I see this as something that can be of benefit everywhere,” he said.

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