Commun Med 2012 ;9(1):83-94
Department of Primary Care and Population Health, University College London, UK.
There has been relatively little discussion of the effects of cultural and linguistic differences on communication in consultations. Moreover, communication in community pharmacy is largely under-researched. This study explores interactions between pharmacists, pharmacy assistants and patients conducted across cultural and linguistic barriers. We drew on a data set collected in a pharmacy in London. The data consisted of 12 video recorded consultations in which patients spoke in Sylheti (a dialect of Bengali), the pharmacists spoke in English and pharmacy assistants used both languages. These data were supplemented with focus groups. Despite the fact that the pharmacy assistant was the only person able to follow all the interactions, pharmacists worked to fulfil their legal and professional duties. It could be argued that the very existence of cultural and linguistic barriers prompted the pharmacists to engage to ensure that the patient understood how to use their medicine. There was no acknowledgement that the pharmacy assistants were fulfilling an additional role. It is likely that explicit negotiation of a flexible and adaptive communicative model would lead to a more satisfying encounter for all participants.