Community Interpreting in the Public Danish Healthcare System

Lisa Shilpa Lomborg Kirkegaard

Student thesis: Master thesis


Community interpreting is an interpretation that focuses on how to communicate in cross- cultural settings, which takes place within community settings such as a medical or legal context. Since Denmark is becoming a more multiculturalist country, I found this issue should be addressed according to the communication and interpretation that exists within the public Danish healthcare system. In this project, the aim has been to reveal how efficient the interpretation and communication are within the public Danish healthcare system. This project focuses on two research questions: 1) What is the situation in the public Danish healthcare system as to interpreters? And 2) If necessary, how can you optimize the communication with non-Danish speaking patients in the public Danish healthcare system? In order to answer these questions, I have chosen to focus on the availability and quality of interpreters and the interpretation, along with quality of the actual communication that exist within the medical context. Several initiatives have been included in order to explore these topics, which will be elaborated on in the following paragraphs. This project has conducted a qualitative method and has included qualitative semi- structured interviews with seven female nurses from three different public hospitals in Denmark. I have applied interview theory as defined by Steinar Kvale & Svend Brinkmann and Staunæs & Søndergaard. Furthermore, I have used John W. Creswell’s six data analysis steps, which has created a framework of the data analysis. This has allowed me to elucidate the current communication situation and thereby providing some well-documented recommendations based on the analysis of the results of the empirical data. Moreover, I have applied community interpreting theory as defined by Sandra Beatriz Hale as well as communication theory as defined by Richard L. Wiseman. Additionally, cross- cultural theory as defined by Joann Keyton, Geert Hofstede, Richard L. Wiseman and Maribel Blasco has been included. These theories have supported the analysis, which has enabled me to provide some well-documented recommendations. Below, the four recommendations will briefly be elaborated on, together with the conclusion of this project. Firstly, I ended up concluding that there was a need to optimize the interpreters as it was discovered in the analysis that the interpreters did not have the competences to interpret adequately. The interpreters that were used depended on where in the country the hospitals were. There appeared to be a huge difference between the eastern and the western part, where the eastern part used ‘authorized’ interpreters and the western part used ‘experienced, but without an education’. I argued for the development of an education where the nurses or whoever had the interest should be given the possibility to be well educated within the interpretation field and thereby fulfill the required skills that an interpreter should possess according to Sandra Hale. This assisted in answering the first research question regarding the situation in the public Danish healthcare system as to interpreters. Secondly, an optimization of the quality of the interpretation should be in focus, as it was explored in the analysis that the quality was not adequate. Implementing an education where the interpreters learned about the ‘Code of Ethics’, which Sandra Hale argues is essential in order to communicate and interpreter correctly within a medical context, could help with this. Thirdly, the analysis revealed that the lack of access to interpreters also caused miscommunication, since the nurses and midwives did not have the ability to communicate with the patients without an interpreter. Therefore, I argued that an implementation of video/telephony should assist in reducing the problems associated with the lack of available interpreters. While this is a cost-consuming implementation, I argued that in the end such an optimization approach would be more time- and cost-efficient. Lastly, I argued that in order to optimize the communication the written materials should be translated, as it will optimize the access to a communication tool that will be helpful during the daily communication with the patients. The development of an App should also assist in optimizing the communication on a daily basis. This, together with the last two recommendations, has helped to elucidate and conclude that there exists a need to optimize the communication with the non-Danish speaking patients, which answers the second research question.

EducationsCand.ling.merc Erhvervssprog og International Erhvervskommunikation (Multikulturel Kommunikation i Organisationer), (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages150
SupervisorsGyde Hansen