Use of Interpreters at Swedish Health Services

Professional, qualified interpreter services must be offered to all patients and their support persons who need them. You may be scheduled to interpret for the patient, or for their family member or friend. At Swedish:

  • The use of non-professional interpreters (for example, relatives, friends and multi-lingual Swedish employees) is not qualified interpretation and not allowed for patient safety.  
  • Nurses, physicians and other medical staff who are completely fluent in both English and the patient’s language, and have been qualified through testing (see Bilingual Staff policy) may care for their own non-English speaking patients and use their second language skills in the scope of their own work, but may not interpret for their co-workers regarding medical or technical information.  
  • If a Swedish staff or provider insists on using the patient’s language and not use your service, and you are unsure of what to do, follow their guidance. But if you overhear any inaccurate interpretation, please sensitively state: “Interpreter speaking, may I clarify what you just said to the patient?” and then state the information accurately to assure that the patient comprehends the content. 
  • A Swedish provider or staff member will document if a patient insists on engaging a family member or friend and refuses a qualified interpreter. In these cases the attending clinician must document that the patient declined the services of a professional interpreter, but for patient safety, should still continue to use a qualified interpreter to interpret for the provider’s content. The patient may choose to use their own non-qualified interpreter of choice, but the Swedish qualified interpreter (you) should interpret back to the provider what is interpreted between the patient and family member/friend, and notify the provider if any information is inaccurate or omitted. 
  • Sometimes a patient or family member can be very insistent that they don’t want to use an interpreter. Sometimes they will tell the interpreter NOT to tell the patient about their medical situation or to withhold information that the provider gives. Please notify the provider if this occurs, and always interpret everything that the provider says, regardless. If the family member becomes difficult or abusive, please notify the provider immediately. Do not engage or argue with the family member or friend, let the Swedish provider or staff handle the situation.


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