Guidelines for health staff

Repairing miscommuncation when it occurs

If you recognise a communication problem or are unsure about any aspect of the communication (your understanding or that of the patient) try to identify the source or sources of communication difficulty - ask the interpreter to help you do this.

Try again - repeat, reformulate, expand your message and / or ask the patient to do the same.

Repetition is a common communication strategy in some cultures. Reformulate the message i.e. explain in another way - using different concepts, metaphors and / or grammatical constructions. More detailed explanation might also be necessary when shared cultural knowledge is limited.

Encourage the patient to explain concepts / issues that are not clear to you.

Consider the concepts / ideas that you want to communicate that might be specific to your own cultural / professional experience and explain these more fully.

Utilise any additional strategies that may help improve your communication when you try again:

Use an interpreter (or another interpreter); find relevant resources in the patient's language (videos, tapes etc).

Use the communication strategies (predict, prevent, monitor, repair) described above.

Learn more about how to implement these strategies effectively.

Consult others with more experience working with the patient's language / cultural group.