Health CareInterpreting

Interpreting in Health Care Facilities: Best Practices and Common Pitfalls

By July 19, 2019 No Comments

With hospitals attracting a diverse group of patients from all over the globe, the interpretation of medical information into different languages is more necessary now than ever before. By employing professional interpreters, hospitals increase the likelihood that their patients have a thorough understanding of their medical information and can make informed decisions about their health. By incorporating the best practices described below, healthcare professionals can avoid common pitfalls and help enhance patient communication.

Best Practices of Interpreting in Health Care Facilities

Here are the best practices our professional medical interpreters recommend when utilizing their services with patients:

Have a Pre-Session with the Interpreter

Take a few minutes to meet separately with the interpreter before talking to the patient. A pre-session gives you an opportunity to discuss the nature of the upcoming encounter and any particular concerns you want to communicate with the patient. An interpreter can inform you if there are any cultural differences that you should be aware of when talking with the patient, such as the possibility of a different diet due to religion. The interpreter may also have a few tips to share on how to move forward given the patient’s cultural background. Give an overview of what you will discuss with the patient so the interpreter can use the appropriate tone during the conversation. Be sure you understand that the interpreter is a communication professional who will interpret what you say and not add to the conversation.

Speak Directly with the Patient

When having the conversation, speak directly with the patient and maintain eye contact. They will look to you for your expression, gestures, and other nonverbal communication. This kind of sustained attention will make the patient feel like the priority that they are.

Speak in Short Sentences

Avoid communicating in long, rambling sentences. The interpreter will need to interpret what you are saying as you are going. Pause after each statement so that the interpreter has the opportunity to translate this information. Speak slowly and at an even pace. In some situations, there may not be a linguistic equivalent of what you have said, so the interpreter may need to explain the concept differently, which may take longer than what you said in your language.

Keep It Simple

Try to keep the conversation as simple as possible. Avoid using jargon when possible so that the interpreter and patient understand you better. This will aid in better communication with the patient.

Make Sure Only One Person Speaks at a Time

Avoid interrupting while the patient is speaking. The interpreter will have difficulty keeping up with everything if both parties are speaking at once. If the patient interrupts, let the interpreter interpret what he or she said and then continue where you left off.

Common Pitfalls of Interpreting in Health Care Facilities

While having a professional medical interpreter can help aid communication, there are several pitfalls of working with these professionals. Try your best to avoid the following:

Making the Interpreter Responsible for Other Roles

The interpreter’s job is to interpret exactly what you and the patient said. It is not his or her job to convince the patient of a particular treatment plan or to see things the way you do. Do not hold the interpreter responsible for the patient’s actions.

Using Idiomatic Language

Using colloquialisms, idioms, or slang can confuse the interpreter. Many of these words or phrases do not resonate in other languages and may be culturally offensive. Choose clear and simple language instead of a more productive conversation.

Being Impatient

You may be used to only taking a few minutes to review test results, give a diagnosis, or have a conversation with a patient who speaks the same language as you do; however, interpreting medical information in a different language will take much longer. There may be language and cultural barriers involved, so it is important to ensure everyone understands what is happening and express patience with the process.

Patronizing the Patient

Some people will speak loudly and simply to a patient who speaks another language, but this can be offensive. Not speaking the same language does not have any bearing on the patient’s intellectual competence or education. Avoid patronizing or infantilizing the patient.

Not Realizing Everything Is Interpreted

The interpreter should not filter out any communication. Anything that you say and the patient says should be interpreted. If you do not want what you say to be heard by the patient, you should not say it.

Having dependable access to language services improves patient care and enhances communication between the medical team and the patient. If you are a medical professional who might benefit from translation services, contact us today to learn more about our services.