Due to the multicultural nature of Australia, it is not uncommon in hospitals to see a patient that speaks little or no English, with some people accompanying them to offer medical translation or interpreting. While this is OK to handle a non-critical situation, there are, however, many lingering doubts. It is not always easy for a person who is not a professional medical interpreter to get the straight story without being biased or changing the wording due to some emotions or feelings, which ends up with a medical interpretation that is not fully and correctly translated.
It is always encouraged to hire a medical interpreter that is not a family member to avoid bad clinical outcomes. A foreign study conducted found that patients who were not proficient in English experience more serious adverse events. This could be due to many factors, including the inability to comprehend the treatment plan or to express their symptoms accurately.
Working with family members
It is better to avoid family members becoming your medical interpreters as advised earlier, but this is especially important for children under 16.
While some patients would feel more comfortable with a friend or relative translating the conversation, especially if it could include some sensitive information to the patient, they might find it a bit intimidating to have an onsite medical interpreter. In this case, a phone interpreting service could be easily sought, which is also a more affordable type of interpreting. This is the best way to pass on reliable information or have your explanations relayed the way you want as a medical professional.
What about hospital staff?
In a country with a large immigrant population like Australia, it’s common to have hospital and medical facility employees who speak various foreign languages. Many hospitals try and keep a roster of these employees in the administrative office.
It is important, to understand how fluent the staff are since most are not certified, medical interpreters.
The best possible person to interpret is a professional medical interpreter who has in-depth knowledge of medical terminology as well as the NAATI certification for the source and target languages.