Communication through informal interpreters in general practice

Published on November 7th 2017 – Informal interpreters are often used in medical settings, when patients and health care providers do not share the same language. Informal interpreters are usually family members of the patients who join the consultation to bridge the language gap. This type of interpreter-mediated communication has shown to be problematic. Therefore, Rena Zendedel has conducted her PhD research on this topic to find out how interpreter-mediated communication can be characterized from the perspective of Dutch general practitioners (GPs), Turkish migrant patients and informal interpreters.

T131008399-rena-zendedel-150x150he results of four studies (interviews with GPs, Turkish migrant patients and informal interpreters, n=54; a survey, n=94; and an observational study of audio-recorded GP consultations, n=84) indicate that the patients and informal interpreters align in their perspective on the role of the informal interpreter (mainly expecting the advocate role), but  that the GPs’ expectations are different. This discrepancy in perspectives might lead to frictions and miscommunication. Moreover, a difference is found in the patients’ expectations of the role of the informal interpreter (mainly the role of the advocate and of the emotional supporter) and the actually performed role of informal interpreters (mainly replacer and exlcuder of the patient and the GP). These findings expose frictions in interpreter-mediated medical interactions and are a starting point for the improvement thereof. For instance, GPs could be trained in how to best work with informal interpreters. The current PhD research was funded by the Dutch Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) and was supervised by Julia van Weert, Bas van den Putte (promotors) and Barbara Schouten (co-promotor).

The public defense of the PhD thesis will be held on Friday November 10th 2017. The PhD thesis can be downloaded here as a PDF.