What is a culturally competent healthcare interpreter?
Thread poster: Haytham Boles

Haytham Boles  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:36
Member (2010)
English to Arabic
+ ...
Jul 26, 2013

Hi everyone. Can anyone tell me if there is a certain good definition (or definitions) of (a culturally competent healthcare (medical) interpreter)?

I am writing an article about healthcare interpreting. The topic I am writing about addresses cultural conflicts encountered by healthcare interpreters. I am looking for a specific definition for the terms "Culturally Competent Healthcare Interpreter".

I look forward to your comments and feedback!

Best regards,
Haytham Boles


 

VEIKMANE DAIGA
Latvia
Latvian to English
+ ...
The one who is absolutely skilled in terminology of the subject of interpretation Jul 26, 2013

I am teaching ESL at the Ministry of Health. New terms are introduced daily, and the interpretor must know them all.

 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:36
Russian to English
+ ...
I don't think there is such a term, at least I ha not heard it here. Jul 26, 2013

You can describe it: an interpreter with high cultural awareness. You mean someone that understands that certain people should not be asked to take off their head cover, or asked certain questions in public? I think the doctors should be more aware of that than the interpreters, not to interfere with certain cultural customs, and they usually are. The role of an interpreter is to interpret.

 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 12:36
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Definition Jul 26, 2013

found in http://www.aon.com/attachments/culturally_competent_health_care.pdf

We use the term “Culturally Competent Health Care” to describe an approach to health care that offers all participants equal access and opportunity to receive quality care and medical purchasing efficiency through elimination of structural barriers and respect for the cultural context of each individual. Cultural context refers to race, language, age, gender, lifestyle, ethnicity, faith, location, and/or socioeconomic status, which influence individual decisions about health and medical care.


 

Srini Venkataraman
United States
Local time: 06:36
Member (2012)
Tamil to English
+ ...
culturally competent: Jul 26, 2013

I am a medical interpreter for some Indian languages.
The interpreter is also a cultural broker. for example though the provider asks about drinking, smoking, drugs, having multiple partners, etc, for Indian women these are no-no mostly. But I interpret anyway. But if some customs of the patient are not understandable to the provider whether or not impacting the treatment plan, then I will have to explain to the provider as a cultural broker.
If the provider misses/overlooks certain symptoms informed by the patient, then the other role as patient advocate comes up- to ensure that the patient gets proper care for all his symptoms/ailments etc.


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:36
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
the interpreter can expand their role Jul 26, 2013

LilianBNekipelo wrote:

You can describe it: an interpreter with high cultural awareness. You mean someone that understands that certain people should not be asked to take off their head cover, or asked certain questions in public? I think the doctors should be more aware of that than the interpreters, not to interfere with certain cultural customs, and they usually are. The role of an interpreter is to interpret.


You can't expect a doctor to know about the cultures of all people who come to consult them, especially in places with people of many different ethnic origins. There are something like 160 nationalities in my suburb of Paris for example. I think the interpreter can expand their role to also explain a few things to both doctor and patient, like, I can't ask the patient that, she'll go bezerk at the suggestion that she may have been unfaithful to her husband, and then to the patient, the doctor wanted to know whether you have had sex with anyone apart from your husband, this is a question they have to ask and there's no need to get angry with him, he's just doing his job and won't pass moral judgment on you whatever your answer.


 

Haytham Boles  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:36
Member (2010)
English to Arabic
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
What is a culturally competent healthcare interpreter? Jul 26, 2013

Srini Venkataraman wrote:

I am a medical interpreter for some Indian languages.
The interpreter is also a cultural broker. for example though the provider asks about drinking, smoking, drugs, having multiple partners, etc, for Indian women these are no-no mostly. But I interpret anyway. But if some customs of the patient are not understandable to the provider whether or not impacting the treatment plan, then I will have to explain to the provider as a cultural broker.
If the provider misses/overlooks certain symptoms informed by the patient, then the other role as patient advocate comes up- to ensure that the patient gets proper care for all his symptoms/ailments etc.


Hello Srini,

Your comment indicates that you have a pretty good knowledge about the topic.

My question is: Could you share with us some example from your experience. In other words, have you ever had a difficult medical interpreting situation due to different cultural values and views between the provider and the patient?

I would love to hear about your personal experience?

Thank you.


 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:36
Russian to English
+ ...
Why wouldn't a doctor know about all the cultures in his town -- thy usually know a lot in fact Jul 27, 2013

in multicultural places. My point was that an interpreter is not supposed to change anything someone else says, or instruct them what to do, so even if he or she knew that certain behavior or question was inappropriate, what is he to do -- teach the hospital staff? Most hospital doctors in NYC know that certain cultures may not want to show their face to strangers, take off their wig, cut their hair, eat meat, eat non-kosher meat, have a man speak to them if they are a woman, talk about serious matters on Saturday or write anything. Of course this may slightly change in an emergency situation. If you live in multicultural places,you know things like that automatically, if ypu are not too ignorant -- so most doctors know regardless, and they are trained by the hospital in this respect.

 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:36
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
How do doctors find out about these things? Jul 27, 2013

Lilian, they do not learn these things at medical school.

A doctor may typically have grown up in a rural community where everyone was the same colour and religion, then start practising as an intern in a big city hospital.


 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:36
Russian to English
+ ...
Most people know that in places like NYC -- Jul 27, 2013

they also have special training at the hospitals. This is why you have to fill out your religion, in the application, whether you are vegetarian or not, and things like that. They know that they are not supposed to ask a Rastafarian to cut their hair and a religious Jewish person to eat pork, among other things, or drink a lot of skim milk with their meatballs.

I actually do not know that many places where everyone is the same color and religion anymore -- this seems slightly exotic to me -- I just realized it. It would be hard to find such a place around here.

[Edited at 2013-07-27 09:41 GMT]


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:36
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
I grew up in such a place. Jul 27, 2013

LilianBNekipelo wrote:

they also have special training at the hospitals. This is why you have to fill out your religion, in the application, whether you are vegetarian or not, and things like that. They know that they are not supposed to ask a Rastafarian to cut their hair and a religious Jewish person to eat pork, among other things, or drink a lot of skim milk with their meatballs.

I actually do not know that many places where everyone is the same color and religion anymore -- this seems slightly exotic to me -- I just realized it. It would be hard to find such a place around here.

[Edited at 2013-07-27 09:41 GMT]


I grew up in such a place. I doubt very much that doctors around there have any idea of cultural differences. People are increasingly moving out from London and ending up there, and it's not only English people doing it. I'm pretty sure the doctors at the surgery I used to go to have no idea of the culture of these new inhabitants. A culturally competent interpreter would be extremely useful!


 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:36
Russian to English
+ ...
Here you study it in school. Jul 27, 2013

I think the subject is called Cultural Diversity.

 

Haytham Boles  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:36
Member (2010)
English to Arabic
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
What is a culturally competent healthcare interpreter? Jul 31, 2013

Thank you DAIGA, LilianeBNekipelo, Teresa, Srini, and Texte for the valuable comments and contribution you made to the topic that I posted on Proz. I am pleased to learn about other fellow interpreters' experiences on rich and interesting subject matters and situations we all encounter from time to time in our job. Also, learning about other cultures is useful and fun as well.

Best wishes,
Haytham Boles


 


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