Lost in translation

31st August 2017 by Rachel Birch

Lost in translation

It is likely that we have all consulted with patients whose first language is not English. How often we do so will depend on the demographics of the practice population. There are potential risks, both to the patient and the doctor, as the case below demonstrates.

Case study

Dr X was running late during a busy afternoon surgery. Her next patient was Mrs H, who had recently moved to the area from Romania. She told Dr X that she had pain in her tummy and appeared to be in some distress. Mrs H had limited English and could not understand some of Dr X’s questions so she called in her 15-year-old daughter to translate for her.

Dr X restarted the consultation, trying to establish details of when the pain started, the nature of the pain and its location. She asked if there was any possibility that Mrs H may be pregnant. The daughter responded directly, without translating the question, stating that her mother could not be pregnant as her father had been working offshore for the past three months. Dr X persisted and asked the daughter to relay the question to Mrs H, who upon hearing it indicated that she may be pregnant.

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