Guidelines for health staff
Brief communication guidelines
GETTING SERIOUS ABOUT COMMUNICATION IN INDIGENOUS HEALTH CARE
ATTENTION: All Health Staff
Do you need an interpreter?
Are you fluent in the patient's main language (i.e. the language they
speak at home, with family and friends) ?
Do you have an in-depth understanding of the patient's culture?
NO?? Then you need an interpreter to ensure effective communication.
Call the Aboriginal Interpreter Service on 89998353 to request an interpreter
any time of day or night including weekends and public holidays.
RDH staff : page 737 to request an Aboriginal interpreter during business
hours and 98353 AHrs weekends & public holidays.
NB: Interpreters are available to all DHACS staff through the Aboriginal
Interpreter Service on a fee for service basis through specific funding.
Ward and Divisional budgets are not affected.
When you work with an interpreter:
Arrange a pre-interview..
A brief meeting between the health professional and the interpreter before
talking with the patient is very important to:
- explain what you want to
- check the interpreter's understanding of the key concepts and issues
you will be talking about with the patient / family
- discuss the best way
to explain concepts and terms that are difficult to translate
- find out
if there are any cultural issues you should know about for this interaction
A 'pre-interview' discussion between the patient/family and the interpreter
is also important to:
- find out what the patient /family wants to achieve in the encounter
inform patients unused to interpreters about the role of the interpreter,
particularly the issues of confidentiality and impartiality
Practice good communication strategies (in all interactions with Indigenous
- talk to the patient, not the interpreter, and encourage the patient
to talk directly to you (arrange seating to facilitate this)
- do not speak too quickly (or too slowly)
- keep your sentences short: one idea or question at a time
- pause frequently : allow sufficient time for the interpreter to think
about the best translation
- fully explain terms and processes in plain English - don't oversimplify
or use 'broken' English: detailed explanations are important if the
patient / family are to make genuinely informed choices about their
health care (with the assistance of an interpreter this can be achieved
much more effectively)
- repeat the same information in different ways
- use pictures and diagrams wherever possible to illustrate your explanation.
- think carefully about how your own communication style and content
are influenced by your culture - are they appropriate / meaningful to
the interpreter and patient?
- avoid metaphors which are culturally specific e.g. clock and calendar
references to time, quantification in terms of percentages, grams or
litres e.t.c cannot be translated into languages which use different
measures of time and quantity
- encourage the interpreter to interrupt when clarification or repetition
of information is needed
- avoid questions that require a yes/no response - the patient may give
the response she/he thinks you want to hear because this is appropriate
in some cultures
- provide opportunities for the patient / family to use their preferred
communication style e.g. ask them to tell their story rather than using
question and answer routines which can be uncomfortable/ unfamiliar
WAIT: pause times are very different across cultures; some people might
need a few minutes before they are ready to respond to a request or question
or to continue a story.. just be patient - this takes practice
Check frequently to check the message has been understood - both ways:
- never assume communication has been effective - CHECK
- asking 'do you understand?' is not a valid way to assess comprehension
- ask the patient to tell you what they think you have said in their
- summarise what you think the patient has said and check if your understanding
is accurate (with the assistance of the interpreter)
Post Interview: after the session, discuss with the interpreter any communication
problems either of you experienced or observed during the interaction
with the patient.