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Informed Consent - Multicultural Information: For Clinicians

The patient who has difficulty communicating in English must be offered an accredited or recognised interpreter during the informed consent process.  Where an on-site interpreter is not available, a telephone interpreter should be engaged.

Simply click the question you would like to learn more about Informed Consent for patients that are not proficient in English.

Why must an interpreter be used in the informed consent process and what is Queensland Health's policy in this regard?
What informed consent form do I use if a patient is not proficient in English?
Should I engage an interpreter? Tips for Queensland Health staff
Quick assessment tool for clinicians to assess if an interpreter is required
How do I book an interpreter?
Need help?

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Why must an interpreter be used in the informed consent process and what is Queensland Health's policy in this regard?

Patients who are not proficient in English, including deaf or hearing impaired patients are at higher risk of ineffective communication which can compromise patient safety.  If a patient does not understand the implications of his or her diagnosis or treatment plans, a problematic event may occur.  Likewise, healthcare practitioner's lack of understanding of the patient or the cultural context within which the patient receives critical information may have serious implications for the outcomes of the treatment, healthcare or patient's safety.  A professional interpreter must be used during the informed consent process.

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What informed consent form do I use if a patient is not proficient in English?

Translated informed consent forms are no longer used as there are too many forms to be regularly updated.  Instead, the English informed consent form is to be used.  These forms are being updated to include a section for the interpreter to sign.  Until all forms have been updated, clinicians need to note their participation with this process....

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Should I engage an interpreter? Tips for Queensland Health staff

The following cues may indicate a person's English-langugage ability is not sufficient for the situation and indicate to staff they will require an interpreter:

  • Person states they speak little or no English.
  • Person requests an interpreter.
  • Person nods or says "yes" to all of the professional's comments and questions.  This may be a culturally based demonstration of respect or it may reflect a lack of understanding.
  • Person speaks a language other than English at home.  This is a strong indicator of proficiency, because the language spoken at home is the language in which the person expresses emotions and the largest vocabulary.  If English is not the language used at home, then that person may lack the vocabulary for self-expression, especialy regarding emotional issues, sensitive topics or health related subjects and terminology.
  • Person speaks a language other than English with friends.
  • Person's preferred language for reading is other than English.  This may indicate the person's limited English vocabulary.  However, many professionals trained in other countries read English well because English language textbooks are frequently used for advanced education.  Thus, the person may comprehend written English better than spoke English.
  • Person has a brief residence in the country.  However, length of residency alone is not a good indicator of proficiency.
  • It is important to remember that although a person may have attained a high level of English proficiency, in times of extreme stress, illness and with ageing, a person's proficiency in their second language is likely to decrease and an interpreter may be required. 

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Quick assessment tool for clinicians to assess if an interpreter is required

  • Provide the patient with information about the procedure or intervention being discussed.
  • Ask the patient to summarise the important aspects of information you have provided.
  • If the patient is not able to repeat what you consider the important aspects of the information your provided, you need to use an interpreter for communication.

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How do I book an interpreter?

Need help?

Contact:
Principal Interpreter Service Quality Officer
Phone: 07 3328 9871
Email: Multicultural@health.qld.gov.au



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Last updated: 1 July 2014