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Online help for clinicians working with language interpreters

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

A team of researchers at the University of Otago, Wellington has just launched a unique on-line eLearning module to provide realistic and practical guidance for clinicians working with spoken language interpreters in primary health care.

With growing numbers of people in New Zealand with limited English proficiency (both migrants and refugees), primary care practitioners need to make the most of interpreters who are available to help, especially in medical situations.

The freely available module was created by a team led by Jo Hilder, Ben Gray and Maria Stubbe from the Applied Research on Communication in Health Group, (ARCH) at the University of Otago, Wellington.

Based on New Zealand research, the module is designed specifically for New Zealand

clinicians, particularly those in primary care. There will be slightly different needs for other forms of care, such as mental health care, in-patient care and emergency department care.

The materials are based on a programme of research since 2009 about interpreters in primary care.

The new module aims to educate practising clinicians and medical students so that they are more aware of the need for interpreters, and more confident and prepared to work with them.

"While the availability of professional interpreting services has improved in recent years, these services are still under-utilised," one of the authors Jo Hilder says.

The module is suitable for use by any practising health professional or student, although

mainly targeted at primary health care. It features a toolkit of flowcharts and tables that

highlight what to consider when making decisions on the best approach for a given

situation and the pros and cons of the different interpreting options.

"We have used authentic video footage from real interpreted consultations with both doctors and nurses as illustrations (with full consent of the participants).

The module covers important considerations for health professionals when conducting interpreted consultations, including practical things like seating arrangements and modifications that might be needed for better communication with the patient, and the

extra care and skill required if the use of family members is being considered as an option.

Although the module focuses mainly on interpreting spoken languages, it also provides some information on interpreting NZ Sign Language for deaf patients.

This resource is available online ( or from the ARCH Group website (

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