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Role Of Medical Interpreter As Patient Advocate

1725 words - 7 pages

Professional providers of language in medicine or medical interpreters are often portrayed as invisible language facilitators (Angelelli 7). This means that their role is to convey the meaning into the other language between parties in the interaction which is accomplished through a conduit role or message converter role. The incremental intervention model of interpreting lets interpreters use a variety of roles including cultural broker and advocate role. Advocacy is a role that an interpreter takes that moves from interpreting the communication between speakers to acting on behalf of one of the speakers based on the interpreter’s understanding of what the speaker’s intended outcome is (NCIHC). It is challenging for medical interpreters to judge when to switch from their role as message converters to become patient advocates, and speak out in their own voice on behalf of a patient maintaining, at all times, high ethical and professional standards. When interpreters step in the role of patient advocate they become visible in the interaction going beyond the conduit role and becoming co-participants in the triad. What is the ethical role of the medical interpreter as an advocate for the Latino patient?; when is it appropriate to use advocacy?; how to make the decision?; what are the consequences of inappropriate use of advocacy role?; what are the boundaries?
To answer all these questions is necessary to define advocacy. The meaning of advocacy in medical interpretation is “an action taken on behalf of an individual that goes beyond facilitating communication, with the intention of supporting good health outcomes” (NCIHC 3). According to CHIA standards for healthcare interpreters, “interpreters enter into the patient advocate role when they actively support change in the interest of patient health and well-being.” (45)
In order to understand the advocate role is important to know the characteristics of the Latino patient. The Latino patient faces language, cultural, educational, and economic barriers when seeking and accessing medical care. Also, often they are unfamiliar with the healthcare system and their rights. For all these reasons, a medical interpreter can advocate for a patient who does not speak English, does not know the health care system, and does not know the western culture helping them to navigate the system. For example, a medical interpreter can advocate for a patient in the following possible example situations: reminding the provider to schedule an interpreter for the patient next appointment; checking for patient and provider understanding of what has been said, when witnessing discrimination or disrespect by alerting the supervisor about patterns of discrimination, rudeness, or disrespect towards the patient (CHIA); educating the patient on rights, on how to request an interpreter, or how to access available services in their institution (Hernandez-Iverson 7). In all these cases, the interpreter makes sure the patient...

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