Paying attention to her Italian teacher at school paid surprising dividends for speech pathologist Courtney Pocock, whose ingenious idea led to an app that will help countless non-English speaking patients.

COURTNEY Pocock could never have imagined where her secondary school language lessons would lead her.

But a few key Italian phrases changed the career path of this talented speech pathologist – as well as the hospital experience of countless patients.

Ms Pocock was a second-year graduate at Western Health when she came across a patient who would ultimately inspire the CALD Assist app.

The patient, an elderly Italian woman with dementia, was having trouble swallowing and her clinicians were struggling to communicate.

“I had learnt Italian at school and I could say ‘hello’ and ‘how are you?’,” Courtney says.

“That’s about all I could say, but when I spoke to the patient her eyes lit and that was enough to get a basic response.”

It turned out that the patient could, in fact, swallow. And so not only was she able to eat that day, the positive interaction at Footscray Hospital became a light bulb moment for Courtney.

“I went back to the office and said to the other grade one ‘imagine if we learnt some words in every language’,” she recalls.

Courtney began experimenting with flash cards and audio tapes, and was soon encouraging her colleagues to adopt phrases like “hello”, “copy me”, “slow down” and “swallow”.

“Looking back it was pretty funny,” Courtney said. “I don’t think we were ever very good at it, but the patients really appreciated the effort,” she says.

Nine years later – after much work and collaboration between Western Health and the CSIRO – and the CALD Assist app was launched on iTunes.

The innovative app is designed to be used when interpreters are not available and helps allied health professionals – dietitians, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, podiatrists and speech pathologists – better communicate with non-English speaking patients.

The free app uses a series of words, pictures, audio and video to facilitate communication between clinicians and patients.

So far, it has translations for 116 simple phrases, such as “do you need glasses?” and “may I listen to your breathing?”,  in 10 languages commonly spoken at Western Health – Arabic, Croatian, Italian, Mandarin, Spanish, Cantonese, Greek, Macedonian, Serbian and Vietnamese.

An updated version of CALD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse) Assist for nurses is due to be released in November 2017.

The Greatest Need Project is a story-sharing website with two major goals – to help patients facing significant hardship and disadvantage, and to facilitate research, at Western Health.

As a staff member, Courtney Pocock is sharing her story in bid to help those at Western Health who need it most.

By making a donation on Courtney’s behalf – and sharing her story on social media – you are making a difference too. Thank you.

No updates

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Care to sign up?

Change the way you give and sign up to our mailing list for the latest news & updates on the Greatest Need Project.