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Interpreting Modalities and their Effect on Patient Safety

Healthcare facilities are being met with increasingly large populations of non-English speaking (NES) and limited English Proficient (LEP) patients. This warrants an increase in the usage of interpreting services. Language barriers between NES and LEP patients and the health care practitioners that care for them must be overcome to maintain patient safety. Different modalities of interpreting are used to meet this demand, however, not all are considered “best practice” in terms of ensuring patient safety. Some modalities are commonly seen in practice because they not only provide ease of access but come with a lack of research on risks associated with using certain interpreting modalities. This study examines the certified-in person and ad hoc interpreting modalities in the context of the health care setting with an emphasis on patient safety. This is done through the lens of existing standards of practice that professional health care interpreters are bound by. The National Council on Interpreters in Health Care outlines nine National Standards of Practice for Interpreters in Health Care (2005) that work to ensure patient safety. These standards of practice have been compared against each modality to best evaluate the correlation between interpreting modalities and patient safety to assess which of the two modalities upholds the greatest number of standards of practice. By juxtaposing each interpreting modality against the industry standards and against evidence-based practices regarding patient safety, this project has deduced that certified in-person interpreting is the safest interpreting modality for the NES or LEP patient.

Rawan Ebrahim '23
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