The importance of teaching clinicians when and how to work with interpreters

John H. Stroger, Jr Hospital of Cook County, USA.
Patient Education and Counseling (Impact Factor: 2.2). 02/2010; 78(2):149-53. DOI: 10.1016/j.pec.2009.12.001
Source: PubMed


To describe the importance of teaching clinicians when and how to overcome language barriers in clinical practice, provide an example of a curriculum for teaching on this topic, and outline the critical issues that must be addressed in this type of teaching.
We describe a 1.5h educational program for students in a large urban medical school as an example curriculum and how it impacted student responses on a 28-item questionnaire measuring their knowledge, attitudes and likelihood of future behaviour before and after the course. The course components are described and highlight the essential components that should be included in teaching about overcoming language barriers in clinical practice.
There were significant improvments in knowledge, attitudes, and reported likelihood of future behaviors after the educational program. Recommendations for essetential curricular components are made.
Teaching clinicians about language barriers in health care and how to overcome them should be essential to all clinical curricula. Brief educational interventions can meet this need and should include a core set of essential teaching points as outlined.
Teaching clinicians when and how to overcome language barriers in health care will help to reduce the impact of this barrier, make clinicians and interpreters' jobs easier and more transparent, and improve patient care and satisfaction.

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    • "However, these studies also acknowledge issues related to this blurring of boundaries and the tensions between the provider's medical expertise and the interpreter's cultural expertise. Jacobs et al. (2010) argued against the use of ad hoc interpreters such as family and friends and advocated education of clinicians in the use of trained medical interpreters. Valero Garc es' (2005) institutional discourse analysis conducted in Spain and the USA contrasted three types of exchange: doctor/foreign-language patient; doctor/ foreign-language patient/ad hoc interpreter (husband); doctor/ foreign-language patient/trained interpreter and made similar recommendations viz the preferred use of trained hospital interpreters and education for clinicians in working effectively with interpreters. "
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    • "Unfortunately, in many contexts practices remain suboptimal. Not all physicians receive training in how to work with an interpreter, and many may overestimate their skills [40-42]. In a study in Geneva, we found that while physicians and medical students considered themselves highly skilled, most were unable to name basic elements of effective collaboration with an interpreter [42]. "
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    • "Statements that family or friends should be avoided except as a last resort are found in institutional policies but also in much of the relevant academic literature (Riddick 1998; Lee et al. 2002; Green et al. 2005; Aranguri et al. 2006; Huang and Phillips 2009; Jacobs et al. 2010; Phillips 2010). "
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