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J Paediatr Child Health. 2003 May-Jun;39(4):259-63.

Barriers to the use of interpreters in emergency room paediatric consultations.

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  • 1Community Paediatrics, Fairfield Health Service, PO Box 5, Fairfield, New South Wales 2165, Australia.



To identify barriers to the use of trained interpreters in emergency department (ED) paediatric consultations.


A cross-sectional survey of non-English-speaking-background (NESB) carers who presented a child aged 14 years or less to the Fairfield Hospital ED during a 3-month period was undertaken using a multilingual postal questionnaire or a phone interview with interpreter assistance.


Of the 1388 paediatric consultations during the study period, 406 of the carers were registered as being of NESB, with 316 being eligible for study inclusion. Of the 278 (88%) respondents who completed the questionnaires, assistance with interpretation was required by 131 (47%) respondents: 55 (20%) used ad hoc interpreters, 47 (17%) used a trained interpreter and 21 (8%) did not receive the required assistance. Fifty-four (41%) carers who required interpreter assistance were identified as having this requirement at clerical registration in the ED, but only 18 of these were provided with a trained interpreter during the consultation. Limited English proficiency was self-reported by 127 (46%) respondents, with these respondents being more likely to need interpreter assistance (odds ratio (OR) 44.2; 95% CI 21.6-90.7), to have impaired understanding of the consultation (OR 8.2; 95% CI 4.7-14.1) and to consult a language concordant general practitioner (OR 10.1; 95% CI 5.1-19.4) compared with English proficient respondents.


Barriers to the use of interpreters in ED paediatric consultations include poor identification of the need for and provision of an interpreter in the ED, and a preference for NESB carers to use ad hoc interpreters or no interpreter. Recommendations include the implementation in the ED of strategies to improve identification of NESB carers, as well as to improve awareness, access and use of trained interpreters during paediatric consultations. There is also a need to explore the experience of ED staff in accessing and using trained interpreters.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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