Staying in the middle
A qualitative study of health care interpreters’ perceptions of their work
In this age of migration, many societies are characterized by linguistic and cultural diversity. Public institutions, such as health care systems, face the challenge of integrating new arrivals, immigrants, refugees or asylum seekers, into the host society. The purpose of this study was to examine how interpreters see their work within the context of the integration of immigrants into the host society (Switzerland) in general, and into the local health system in particular. We investigated the roles that interpreters working in a Women’s Hospital in Switzerland take on and are aware of in their work. The interpreters described four main roles: word-for-word interpreting, intercultural explanation, building patient–provider relationships, and accompanying immigrant patients. An additional cross-cutting theme emerged: interpreters facilitating the integration of immigration. Only the first of these is generally regarded as their “official” role. The interpreters take on the additional roles as necessary during a consultation, in response to the needs of the patient and the health professionals. Further discussion is needed about whether these additional roles should be recognized and promoted as part of their work since they are important and there is no one else to take them on. Interpreters who take on the additional roles related to integration have the potential to be important actors in health care services whose patient populations that are increasingly linguistically and culturally diverse.
Keywords: health care, intercultural communication, migration, integration, community interpreting
Published online: 06 April 2012
Cited by 10 other publications
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