Medical Language Interpretation

Medical Language Interpretation
Communication is an unavoidable tool in health care service delivery.
However, a mismatch between the language used by health care provider
and the patient’s ability to comprehend can hinder effective delivery
of health care services. This is because the failure of patients to
understand instruction given by the health care provider can result in
missed appointments, malpractice lawsuits, and medical errors that can
lead to a poor medical outcome (National Society for Genetic Counselors,
2009). This is a common phenomenon in bilingual and multilingual
societies, which are composed of individuals who may not understand the
language of the majority members of the community. This necessitates
medical language interpretation to accurate, timely, and accurate
delivery of medical information to the patient. Competent interpretation
of language is essential in a medical set-up because it helps patients
in responding to the message as if it was uttered in the original
language.
Components of medical language interpretation
Some health facilities hire either full-time or part-time interpreters
who interpret several non-English languages. These are paid members of
staff who are employed in facilities with regular need for a specific
language. However, health facilities with intermittent demand for
interpreters utilize contract interpreters. This service is common in
facilities that serve few patients with limited English proficiency
(LEP) (Torres, 2004). Community-based agencies are commercial
institutions that employ and provide professional interpreters with
different health facilities. These institutions used a shared-resource
approach, which permit many facilities to access interpreters whenever
they need them.
A telephone interpretation service allows the interpreter to use the
speakerphone to provide a rapid or unusual language interpretation
encounter. This service requires the health facility to establish the
type of training that the interpreter has especially in medical
terminology (NSGC, 2009). In most cases health facilities prefer to
utilize existing members of staff instead of hiring outside interpreters
because this is cost effective.
Employee language bank is pool of hospital workers whose duties do not
involve direct contact with patients, but speak languages other than
English. The disadvantage with this type of interpretation is that most
facilities ignore the need to train and assess interpreters, which
reduces the quality of service delivery (NSGC, 2009).
The best practice language interpretation system has three common
characteristics the system has a full time (24 hours in 365 days)
accessibility for oral language interpretation in all patients with
limited English proficiency. Secondly, the system provides timely
delivery of interpretation services for all non-English languages.
Third, the system provides a uniform training and assessment of
interpreters’ competency in all categories of oral language assistance
(Torres, 2004).
Two scenarios in which interpretation was not provided for non-English
patients
Scenario 1: Fenella & Barclays (2012) reported a case of three
non-English speaking and pregnant women who visited the hospital for
nutritional advice for their unborn babies. Since they could not speak
English, they pointed their stomach and the doctors misinterpreted it to
mean abortion. One of the women was given an abortion.
Scenario 2: An Indo-Canadian who spoke Punjab patient visited a
pharmacy, but since he spoke broken English, the pharmacist
misunderstood the complaints and administered cold and cough medication.
Fortunately, a co-worker pharmacist who spoke Hindi, which similar to
Punjab came in and noticed that the patient wanted the medication to
resolve his constipation (Fenella & Barclays, 2012).
There are two basic principles that may apply in the above scenarios.
First, the principles of nonmaleficence require health care providers
not to harm their patients in any way. However, in these scenarios, it
is clear that the medications administered are harmful to patients.
Secondly, the principle of beneficence requires health care providers to
ensure that their services aim at improving patients’ health in the
best way and in every situation (Runzheimer & Larsen, 2013).
Ethical principles and the implication in the two scenarios
There are two basic principles that may apply in the above scenarios.
First, the principles of nonmaleficence require health care providers
not to harm their patients in any way. However, in these scenarios, it
is clear that the medications administered are harmful to patients.
Secondly, the principle of beneficence requires health care providers to
ensure that their services aim at improving patients’ health in the
best way and in every situation (Runzheimer & Larsen, 2013). However, in
the two scenarios, it is clear that the two health care providers could
not improve the health of non-English speaking patients.
Relationship of the scenarios to my code of ethics, after graduation
I aspire to work as an emergency physician after graduation, where I
expect to be guided by the principles of ethics for emergency
physicians. There are many ethical guidelines for emergency physicians,
but are more related to the two scenarios. First, an emergency physician
is expected to embrace the welfare of patients as their primary
responsibility (American College of Emergency Physicians, 2013). In
relation to the two scenarios, issue medical recommendation before
comprehending the needs of the patients is unprofessional and a sign of
irresponsibility. Secondly, physicians are expected to promote societal
efforts by improving public health and safety (ACEP, 2013). This is
accomplished by reducing injuries and illness to patients. However,
providers in the above scenarios maximized injuries and failed to secure
their patients by providing wrong medication.
References
American College of Emergency Physicians (2013). Code of ethics for
emergency physicians. Dallas: American College of Emergency Physicians.
Fenella, S. & Barclays, S. (2012). The role of the interpreter in health
care. Vancouver: Society of Translators & Interpreters of British
Columbia.
National Society of Genetic Counselors (2009). Recommended resources for
culturally competent health care. Chicago: National Society for Genetic
Counselors Incorporation.
Runzheimer, J. & Larsen, J. (2013). Basic principles of medical ethics.
Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons Incorporation.
Torres, B. (2004). Best practice recommendations for hospital-based
interpreter services. Boston: Common Wealth of Massachusetts.
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