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Ensuring the best health care for everyone

August Messenger 2020, Professionalism & Standards | Posted August 21, 2020
Canada is a multicultural country made up of people from many different backgrounds, ethnicities and countries. While this diverse representation is part of what makes Canada a great place to live, there is a potential for language barriers in clinical care settings. Some studies have shown many newcomers and immigrants will avoid seeking medical attention due to language barriers.

Every single person deserves and should expect accurate and reliable health care, and physicians play an important part in ensuring this expectation is met.

While a trusted translator can help avoid gaps in understanding, physicians should be cautious in using patients’ friends or family members as translators. While it may seem convenient to use a neighbour, friend, family member or even a child of the patient, it is not recommended, as information may not be translated to you correctly; the patient’s account may be altered or filtered, or otherwise influenced; or the patient may not be comfortable or forthcoming when someone they know is in the room.

Services like the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Alberta, Edmonton Immigrant Services Association and Immigrant Services of Calgary, as well as many church groups, offer translation services. However, it is not always possible for a professional translator to be present at a medical appointment, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Patients should never be turned away from their appointment simply because the translator is not present; accommodations should be made if the translator is available virtually (e.g., over the phone, video chat) to ensure the best care possible.

Questions? Contact Chantelle Dick, Standards of Practice Coordinator.

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