Health Care Interpreter Service

Health Care Interpreter Service (HCIS)

Assessing the need for an Interpreter

Assessing the Need for an Interpreter

Any patient/client who was born in a non-English speaking country, or who speaks a language other than English at home including Auslan (Australian Sign Language) may require assistance of an interpreter. You will need to:

  • Assess if the patient/client is able to fully understand and communicate in a health care situation. Just because they can manage to give you their personal details and talk about everyday topics such as the weather, do not assume that they have enough English to cope in a medical situation. Our ABC Tool will assist you in assessing if an interpreter is required.
  • Establish if the patient/client would like to use an interpreter. Stress that their services are free and confidential. 
  • Call the Interpreter Service if you experience difficulty in understanding the patient's/client's response. 
  • Call the Interpreter Service if their response is inappropriate or you have any doubt about their level of understanding. 

If you are having difficulty in establishing the language needed, refer to Interpreter Signage which is displayed in the waiting areas across LHD health facilities or refer to the Languages Available list

Before you decide an interpreter is not needed, remember:

  • Communication is a basic right of people - to express their feelings, hopes, and fears and to have access to information about their health and their care. 
  • Illness and seeking treatment creates stress which can inhibit understanding and the ability to communicate, and can cause someone who otherwise copes quite well in English to revert to their first language. This can also happen to people as they grow older. 
  • When interpreters are used, both patient/client and health care providers can be confident that they are receiving the communication as it was intended. 
  • English is not an easy language to learn. 
  • Everyday English is learned first, with parts of the body and the vocabulary of sickness (or emotions) being learned later.