Below is a list of good practices to follow when conducting the actual appointment with your patient and an interpreter. You should consider all of the following points:

  • Confirm your patient and interpreter can communicate in the same language and dialect.
  • The most important part of this session is the introduction of all the parties involved. As a practitioner you should introduce yourself to the patient and the interpreter should do the same. This will make the patient feel a little more at ease and they will know who is who.
  • You should keep the attendees of an appointment to a minimum. Family and friends can cause confusion for the interpreter when interpreting what people are saying or signing. If there are lots of people involved in the appointment this can often be difficult for the interpreter to keep up especially if all parties included are very vocal and opinionated and for BSL bookings if these other people sign themselves.
  • The interpreter should explain their role to you and the patient before you get started.
  • If this is one of your first appointments where you are using an interpreter, you should ask the interpreter what works best during an interpreting session as they will usually have had lots of previous experience interpreting within a mental health setting.
  • It is important as your role as the practitioner to speak in short sentences, pausing to ensure all information can be passed on to the patient.
  • When there is more than one professional in the room, please allow the interpreter to ask you to pause while they interpret up to speed. It is very common in this setting for practitioners to get carried away in conversation; however this makes the interpreter’s job much harder as they have more to catch up on. Please be aware of how fast you are talking and how many sentences you have said without a break/pause.
  • You should consider the type of terminology you are using. Do not use jargon or acronyms as often the patient will not understand what these words mean and in some languages there is no direct interpretation and the interpreter will be required to use more words and longer sentences to describe the meaning you are conveying. For BSL interpreters this may take longer. If your patient does not understand it is your responsibility to explain more simply, this is not the interpreters’ responsibility.
  • Good practice would be to say the medical terminology but then give a summary in simplified terms of what that means, allowing your patient to understand more accurately.
  • Do not make comments that you do not want interpreting. Anything that is said in the appointment, you should expect to be interpreted. The patient may understand more than you realise.
  • Avoid long discussions with the interpreter as this may make your patient feel uneasy and that you are discussing them. If you do need to discuss anything with the interpreter please ask the interpreter to make the patient aware of this.
  • You should always speak to the patient directly, for example asking them, “How are you feeling today?” Rather than asking the interpreter, “Can you ask the patient how they are feeling today?”
  • You should make the patient aware if you require cultural clarification from the interpreter.
  • Be aware of your non-verbal communications, i.e. body language and eye contact. Remember that its meaning could be different within a different culture.
  • To confirm a response, repetition is always a good tool to use.
  • You should always use a specific rather than a general term, for example: ‘daily’, rather than ‘frequent’.
  • The use of diagrams, pictures and translated written material can increase the understanding of a subject.
  • If an appointment lasts for more than a couple of hours, you should consider taking a refreshment break, not only for your patient but for the interpreter too as they are doing twice as much work.
  • If you need to leave the appointment room for any reason, you should not expect the interpreter to wait in the room. You should ask the interpreter to leave before you plan to do so, informing the patient of why you are both leaving. It is unethical to leave the patient and the interpreter in the same room whilst you are not there. These reasons have been discussed above. Often interpreters do not feel comfortable staying in the room when the practitioner has left, especially if the patient’s mental state is not stable. Remember, you have a duty of care towards your interpreter.
  • You should never ask the interpreter to translate any written materials for you. Often the interpreter will not be trained in the translation of written documents and are not liable for any errors which may arise due to this. If any documents are required to be translated you should request this with Language Empire and organise another follow up appointment to discuss the information. In the Mental health sphere specifically, if you require some information interpreting from a written document the interpreter should gain permission from Language Empire, this way we can log this requirement onto their booking for future reference.

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