Arabic-speaking migrants' experiences of the use of interpreters in healthcare: A qualitative explorative study

  • Hadziabdic E
  • Hjelm K
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INTRODUCTION: Arabic-speaking migrants have constituted a growing population in recent years. This entails major challenges to ensure good communication in the healthcare encounter in order to provide individual and holistic healthcare. One of the solutions to ensure good communication between patient and healthcare staff who do not share the same language is to use a professional interpreter. To our knowledge, no previous qualitative studies have been found concerning Arabic-speaking migrants and the use of interpreters. This study aims to ascertain their individual experiences which can help extend our understanding of the studied area.

METHOD: A purposive sample of 13 Arabic-speaking persons with experience of using interpreters in healthcare encounters. Data were collected between November 2012 and March 2013 by four focus-group interviews and analysed with qualitative analysis according to a method described for focus groups.

RESULTS: Four categories appeared from the analysis: 1) The professional interpreter as spokesperson; 2) Different types of interpreters and modes of interpretation adapting to the healthcare encounter; 3) The professional interpreter's task and personal properties affected the use of professional interpreters in a healthcare encounter; 4) Future planning of the use of professional interpreters in a healthcare encounter. The main findings were that the use of interpreters was experienced both as a possibility and as a problem. The preferred type of interpreters depended on the interpreter's dialect and ability to interpret correctly. Besides the professional interpreter's qualities of good skill in language and medical terminology, translation ability, neutrality and objectivity, Arabic-speaking participants stated that professional interpreters need to share the same origin, religion, dialect, gender and political views as the patient in order to facilitate the interpreter use and avoid inappropriate treatment.

CONCLUSION: The study showed that the personal qualities of a good interpreter not only cover language ability but also origin, religion, dialect, gender and political views. Thus, there is need to develop strategies for personalized healthcare in order to avoid inappropriate communication, to satisfy the preferences of the person in need of interpreters and improve the impact of interpretation on the quality of healthcare.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Arabic-speaking persons
  • Focus group interview
  • Healthcare
  • Interpreters
  • Qualitative content analysis

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  • Emina Hadziabdic

  • Katarina Hjelm

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