a visit at the doctor's

Project: Communication with non-Swedish speaking clients and patients

The purpose of the study is to map how primary care and social services staff handle communication with patients who have difficulty understanding and acquiring information in Swedish. The study is based on a survey in the areas of LSS, financial assistance and primary care, and focus group interviews that also include young persons who have experience of interpreting for parents and parents and next-of-kin in public settings.

Project information

Project manager
Kristina Gustafsson
Other project members
Petra Höglund, Linnaeus University; Eva Norström, Lund University; Ingrid Fioretos, Region Skåne
Participating organizations
Linnaeus University, Lund University, Region Skåne, the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen)
The National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen)
1 Sept 2017-30 June 2018
Social Work (Department of Social Work, Faculty of Social Sciences)

More about the project

Previous research shows that the need for professional interpreters is difficult to meet and that public sector staff therefore often find other solutions. The National Board of Health and Welfare has stated that it is inappropriate to use relatives as interpreters in health care and social services and has therefore initiated this investigation.

For social services activities, the lack of access to interpreters is about not being able to perform legal work and meeting users' rights. It is also about efficiency and economy in the process of handling, investigate and make decisions. Thirdly, the user (the parent or friend of the child or adult who interprets) is entitled to have insight and to influence his own case.

In the field of medical care, relatives who interpret may lead to misunderstandings that seriously endanger patient safety so that the patient does not get proper care, misunderstands the purpose of treatment or medication. The relative might be emotionally committed to the patient and it poses a risk that not everything in the conversation is translated. In addition, the child's or friend's language skills are not proven, nor the knowledge of medical and legal terminology or accepted concepts in social services.

For children, it also means that they receive information they should not receive and that they are assigned an adult responsibility in the family. Questions about responsibility, loyalty and power become important here. Finally, this issue is about the society and what promotes long-term integration for non-Swedish-speaking users and those children and/or adults involved in interpreting. Today, there is no knowledge about the extent to which relatives are used as interpreters in Sweden. Therefore, in order to strengthen the area, we need to map how professionals handle communication with patients who find it hard to understand and get information in Swedish.

The project is part of the research in the Social work and migration research group and in the Linnaeus University Centre for Concurrences in Colonial and Postcolonial Studies.