a1 School of Health and Caring Sciences, Linnaeus University, Sweden
Aim The aim of this study was to describe how healthcare professionals experience and perceive the use of interpreters in their contacts with patients with whom they do not share a common language.
Background Language barriers lead to poor-quality care and fewer medical contacts. To avoid language barriers and their consequences, interpreters are recommended. However, communicating through an interpreter can be difficult. To develop effective interpreter service it is important to study healthcare staff’s perceptions of using an interpreter.
Methods An explorative descriptive study design was used. The study was conducted in different healthcare settings in Sweden and included 24 healthcare staff, of whom 11 were physicians, 9 nurses, 2 physiotherapists and 2 assistant nurses. Data were generated through written descriptions of the use of interpreters in healthcare service and were analysed using qualitative content analysis.
Findings Two main categories emerged from the data: 1) aspects related to the interpreter and 2) organizational aspects. The study showed that having a face-to-face, professional, trained interpreter, with a good knowledge of both languages and of medical terminology, translating literally and objectively, was perceived positively. The organizational aspects that affected the perception were functioning or non-functioning technical equipment, calm in the interpretation environment, documentation of the patients’ language ability, respect for the appointed time, and the level of availability and service provided by the interpreter agency. It is important to develop a well-functioning interpreter organization that offers trained interpreters with a professional attitude to improve and ensure cost-effective and high-quality encounters and care.
(Received May 29 2009)
(Accepted March 02 2010)
(Online publication May 18 2010)