Imagine you are in the hospital and do not understand or only partially understand what the nurses and doctors are telling you. You cannot follow explanations and instructions for treatment and you cannot ask questions or give consent. What remains is a lack of understanding and uncertainty, which increases concern about one’s own illness and impairs the healing process. Bedside interpreters can help bridge the gap in understanding.
There can be several reasons why the patient and the doctor (representing all the staff in the hospital who care about the patient) understand each other poorly or not at all:
- The patient does not speak the local language. In 2018, there were 6.2 million adults in Germany who could not read and write German properly. For more than half of these people (52.6 percent), German is their mother tongue. Of the 47.6 percent of people with a different mother tongue, 42.6 percent could read and write German only with difficulty. Those are the numbers from the study” LEO 2018 – Living with low literacy “, which was sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Education. There are also numerous so-called medical tourists: foreigners who, for various reasons, are being treated in another country with a foreign language.
- The patient is hard of hearing or deaf. (Learn more about speech-to-text interpretation for the hearing impaired and sign language interpretation) .
- The patient is mute.
- Due to other illnesses or handicaps, the patient only (still) has limited physical abilities to hear, understand and/or speak.
The language barrier between doctor and patient affects both sides: On the one hand, the doctor needs a maximum of knowledge about the current condition and the medical history of his patient in order to treat him in the best possible way. Missing information can delay the right treatment and, in the worst case, contribute to the deterioration of the patient’s health.
On the other hand, the doctor is responsible for ensuring that his patient is informed: about his condition, the possibilities and chances of success of the treatment and about any associated risks. The patient must understand what they are being informed about before agreeing to treatment. If, for example, he is not able to do this himself in an emergency, the relatives must make the decision on his behalf. They too must be able to follow the content of the information in order to make upcoming decisions.
In a study by the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, according to the online journal BMC Health Services Research, 17 to 19 percent of the doctors surveyed stated that they considered communication with patients of Turkish origin to be insufficient. If a doctor is concerned that his explanations will not be understood by the patient, it is his job to solve the comprehension problems: For example, he can bring an interpreter to the bedside to interpret between doctor and patient. Alternatively, interpreter apps or so-called video interpreters are conceivable. Because in the event of liability proceedings, according to the medical translation services, it may be up to the doctor to prove that the information was correct and understood by the patient.
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What is the benefit of bedside interpreting?
With the interpreting between patient and doctor, the so-called hospital interpreting, both sides are helped:
- Frustrations resulting from the language difference are reduced or do not arise in the first place.
- The prerequisites for an understanding togetherness during the preliminary talks, the treatment and the aftercare are created.
- The measures for treatment and care are secured on both sides and their quality is less affected.
According to the medical journal, studies have also shown that patients who do not understand their doctor are more likely to suffer from undesirable side effects, which reduces patient safety for this group of patients.
Not to forget: the language barriers could also have a financial impact in addition to the medical aspects. Because language-related misunderstandings sometimes lead to extra visits by patients to doctors’ surgeries and hospitals, which causes unnecessary costs.
Language-savvy professionals at the bedside instead of relatives
Quite often, relatives, especially children, have to go to the bedside to help their loved ones to overcome the language barrier. Experts advise that this should only be done in an emergency. Because the related interpreters are often simply overwhelmed with the task. As a medical layperson, you not only lack the vocabulary, but also the background knowledge to translate facts in an understandable way. They are also emotionally connected to the patient. This is what makes some translations of intimate details tricky. In addition, it is to be feared that this would also cause shifts in family structures and the role and power relationships that prevail there.
Interpreters at the bedside need language and medical knowledge
In addition to pure language skills and the ability to engage in intercultural discourse, a bedside interpreter needs a basic understanding of medicine: both in terms of illnesses and their treatment, as well as what goes on in the hospital. For this reason, it makes perfect sense to look around for professionals who have these skills if you need bedside interpreters. There are now numerous medical practices, clinics and hospitals that, for example, employ language-savvy employees from their own ranks(also) use as an interpreter. They record the language skills of future colleagues when they are hired and, ideally, train them to work as bedside interpreters. Other institutions use the services of external professionals.
Hospital interpreting via video switch – solution for special cases and pandemic times
If the special treatment of a patient or the protective measures in the event of a pandemic such as the current Sars-Cov19 pandemic prohibit an interpreter from appearing personally at the bedside, there are now professional interpreters who offer their services as telephone or video interpreters and despite the Removal Translate content with absolute confidentiality.
Ask us about bedside interpreting! Our professional interpreters translate into all languages of the world. We will be happy to advise you and will certainly find a quick and practical solution for you!