Healthcare Interpreting from a New Zealand Sign Language Interpreters' Perspective
This research examines healthcare interpreting from the perspective of New Zealand Sign Language interpreters. Healthcare interpreting is a growing topic of research globally. However, little focus has been given to the perspective of the interpreters working in healthcare settings. The challenges encountered by interpreters providing communication access to healthcare professionals and deaf clients ranged from interpersonal demands between the interpreter and the other participants to linguistic demands dealing with unfamiliar terminology. To the best of my knowledge, this research is the first of its kind in New Zealand. The aim of this study was to identify challenges encountered by New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) interpreters working in healthcare settings and examine what coping strategies they employ to deal with challenges. The research was carried out using a mixed-method approach with a quantitative online survey and qualitative interviews. A total of 28 NZSL interpreters responded to the survey and 8 NZSL interpreters volunteered to be interviewed. The results indicated that the main challenges encountered in healthcare settings included a lack of understanding of the interpreter’s role by healthcare professionals, difficulty in dealing with unfamiliar healthcare terminology and in some cases interpreters’ belief that the deaf clients did not receive adequate access to full healthcare information. The participants shared the coping strategies they use to deal with the unfamiliar terminology and these strategies were discussed from a perspective of where the onus of decoding the message was placed. The study suggests that NZSL interpreters working in healthcare situations should be more assertive in terms of their professional relationship building, give thought to moving the onus of providing clear information back to the healthcare professional and ensure that all participants are aware of the role of the interpreter. If consumers of healthcare interpreter services are educated on how to work effectively with interpreters, communication will be more effective and the risk to deaf clients will be reduced.