Interpreting services

Communicating effectively with non-English speaking clients

Use of an Interpreter is highly recommended. Interpreting services are important to health care as they allow complete communication between a patient and the healthcare provider.

Failing to use a competent interpreter runs a high risk of inadequate communication that could result in inappropriate treatment or information offered.

There are many situations in which a competent interpreter should be used for reasons of clinical safety. These include (but are not limited to) the following:
• Determining a patient’s medical history or asking them to describe their ailment / injury – generally at admission/intake;
• Explaining patients’ rights, particularly when obtaining informed consent/permission for treatment;
• Assessment, diagnosis and development of care plans;
• Providing information about medication or medication aids;
• Mental health issues, therapy, counselling and crisis intervention;
• Suspected or disclosed child / partner abuse (substance or physical).

Cultural practices or family connections are often barriers to effective communication where family members are used. As well as not being bound to privacy, family members will often take it upon themselves to “protect” a loved one by omitting or altering information.

Telephone Interpreting

Telephone interpreting via Language Line, remains the ‘first-port-of-call’ for the provision of interpreting services. Telephone interpreting does have its limitations however, and some languages required for Nelson’s former refugee population are not available on Language Line.

To find out more about Language Line visit:

Face to Face Interpreters

Requests for face to face interpreters are increasing, so work is progressing on streamlining this system. Face to face interpreters are essential for complex or sensitive appointments, but also for the languages not available on Language Line. Some basic skills are required to successfully use or work with an interpreter and be prepared for the appointment to take twice as long. We do have some resources available that may help with learning more about working with face to face interpreters.

To become an interpreter

Contact the Nelson Multicultural Council visit: