Communicating with Patients: Using Translators

Providing linguistically and culturally appropriate care is a mandate for all clinicians. How we do that, particularly for our patients in crisis, is often easier said than done. There is an art to using translators in the clinical setting that is almost never formally taught. However,  there are actually a few tutorials out there for effectively engaging translation services when working with patients/victims of violence. They range from simple slide presentations to interactive multimedia courses. So I’ve highlighted a few notable ones, which you can review after the jump.

  1. The Asia and Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence received federal (OVW) funding to create their Interpretation and Technical Assistance Resource Center. They hosted a webinar on using translation services with domestic violence victims in December, but the slides can still be viewed. Their page also discusses the range of services they offer. To my knowledge, this is the only violence-specific translation resource on the web.
  2. The Women With Disabilities Education Project created an online communication tutorial as part of a series of education modules. The tutorial focuses on “communicating with people whose disability affects the exchange of information during the [healthcare] visit. Specific disabilities covered include blindness and low vision, cognitive disabilities, speech and language disorders, and deafness. Each section begins by describing how the disability can affect communication and follows with a description of methods and technologies that can be used to communicate more effectively.” Obviously this goes beyond using translation services, but it’s all relevant, so I included it. You can view this module as a static Powerpoint, or choose the (better) self-running option for video and audio, as well.  There are also some discussion questions included, but those felt a bit lame. If you use this as an education session at a staff meeting or other group session, I would make up your own.
  3. The Provider’s Guide to Quality and Culture is a well-resourced site that looks at a variety of issues related to cultural competency and health disparities. One of the sections on the site is dedicated to patient-provider interactions, including using translation services. There are a ton of video/audio clips and links to current tools and information included, so it’s probably worth your time to explore the whole thing.
  4. If you’re consistently seeing patients who speak a language other than English, perhaps it’s time to expand your own linguistic capacity? There are many sites devoted to foreign language education. This one, specifically for clinicians, is an interactive way to learn medical Spanish terminology and phrases. It has an archive of audio clips to assist with pronunciation and a glossary of anatomy and other helpful words. The site was created by a native speaker and trained medical translator, and is simple and easy to use.

Do you know of other quality resources on this topic? Please let us know in the comments section if you have site suggestions.

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