For each of us, our “culture” helps define who we are in society and in relation to each other. It is critically important to acknowledge culture when it comes to something as personal as health care. Providing a medical interpreter for anyone from any culture who has limited English proficiency is paramount when addressing cultural boundaries. When we interpret or translate medical information, we do so with an understanding of how culture impacts language. Therefore, the interpreter should know about the patient’s and the family’s cultural background. Medical interpreters also help doctors and clinical staff understand how information is being perceived by the patient and family member.
The clinical provider can initiate a conversation about the family’s cultural background. And, the interpreter is always an excellent source when there is a need for that conversation as she assumes the role of cultural broker. The provider should also be aware of a very useful tool, the Kleinman Questions. This user friendly group of questions are open ended and allow the family member an opportunity to share what they know about their child’s illness without being judged. They can be used with any family member regardless of whether they speak English or any other language.
In a pediatric hospital, we often see different (or more cases of) conditions, such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and animal bites, than an adult healthcare system. There are many more pediatric terms to understand, as well as other factors to consider, in explaining a medical condition or treatment to a patient’s family. The interpreter has to be familiar with terms related to a child’s developmental milestones, particularly when the patient is undergoing any type of evaluation by psychologist or involved in any type of rehabilitation activity. When interpreting for children at our Stephanie V. Blank Center for Safe and Healthy Children, the interpreter has to collaborate closely with the clinical staff in order to find the most age-appropriate way of expressing very sensitive questions.
It is important to know why a family member or friend should not assume the role of a medical interpreter. A sister or uncle may be embarrassed by the topic—or skip over it completely. In addition, they may not know the correct translation of a term. It is because of these and many other reasons that a medical interpreter should always be the one to interpret for the patient, family, doctors and clinical staff. More importantly, when a medical interpreter is not involved the accuracy of the information being transmitted is compromised.
Providing interpretive services helps establish a warm welcome to the families we care across a variety of cultures. So, Welcome. Bienvenido. Bienvenue. Willkommen. ようこそ. 歡迎光臨.