Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

Connecting Cultures: Medical Interpreter Ideology and Role Construction

Connecting Cultures: Medical Interpreter Ideology and Role Construction

Lily Conquest

Doctor-patient interactions mediated by interpreters have been studied rather extensively, with the interpreter’s role typically characterized as either neutral, or more often, allies of the healthcare system: “co-diagnosticians” or “institutional gatekeepers,” as coined by Brad Davidson. Less research has been conducted on interpreters’ own perception of their roles, or the ways in which this role is constructed within the interpreter community. This paper examines material produced by a medical interpreting organization, focusing on discussions of the interpreters’ role and responsibilities. This analysis builds on the works of Davidson and Hsieh, and draws data from YouTube content posted by Connecting Cultures Healthcare Interpreters. These materials include interviews and short one-on-one discussions about common problems in the field, particularly regarding the scope of interpreter responsibility.  Medical interpreters perceive themselves as independent of the patient and physician, but still situated within the healthcare institution. Even as employees of healthcare, medical interpreters highly value neutrality and aspire to be completely impartial. However, this is complicated by the institutional guidelines they must follow, such as the medical interpreting Code of Ethics, and their career interests, as they are generally employed by the healthcare provider. 

April 12, 2021 - Posted by | abstract

1 Comment »

  1. Hi Lily, this sounds like a really interesting study. As someone interested in how to make healthcare more equitable and inclusive, I’d love to read the final paper if possible! I think it’s so cool how platforms like YouTube provide us with direct, diverse, and firsthand perspectives from people we otherwise might not be able to hear from so easily.

    Comment by Raveena Mata | April 13, 2021 | Reply

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