Invisible rights: Barriers and facilitators to access and use of interpreter services in health care settings by Polish migrants in Norway


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Scandinavian Journal of Public Health;First Published October 22, 2018


Sage Publications

Document type


Aims: Polish migration to Norway is a relatively new phenomenon. Many Polish migrants do not speak Norwegian or have insufficient knowledge of the language, which makes it difficult or impossible to communicate with health personnel. The main aim of the study was to identify barriers and facilitators to Polish migrants’ access and use of interpreter services in health care settings in Norway. Methods: Nineteen semi-structured interviews with Polish migrants were carried out in 2013 and 2014. Thematic analysis was performed to identify barriers and facilitators related to the use of interpreter services. Results: Participants often received information regarding their health condition and treatment in a language they did not fully understand. They reported that their access to interpretation services was limited or denied for a variety of reasons, such as reluctance of health personnel to book an interpreter and overestimation of patient’s language skills. In many cases, using friends, relatives or bilingual staff instead of professional interpreters compromised the quality of interpretation. Conclusions: Even though migrants are entitled to free interpreter services, Polish migrants experience several barriers accessing interpreters in health care settings. A variety of practices such as selective use and use of unqualified and ad hoc interpreters reveals a failure to meet recommended standards of interpretation services. Not involving professional interpreters in language-discordant consultations constitutes a serious threat to practitioners’ ability to work as competent professionals, potentially risking the quality and safety of health care for these patients.




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