Interpreter Service Vital to Making Health Care Accessible to All

An interpreter from Auslan Connections converses with a patient on Tambo Ward recently. Photo: Jake Lynch/BRHS


All Australians have the right to access health care.

But for many, that seemingly simple premise comes with many barriers and obstacles.

People who speak languages other than English, and deaf or hearing-impaired people, are two groups that face immediate difficulties when accessing health services, particularly in regional areas.

As part of our commitment to providing quality health care to anyone that presents to BRHS, the health service has access to a 24/7 translating and interpreting service.

It is the responsibility of all health professionals to ensure that all clients and carers receive information in a language they understand.

This includes use of an interpreting service when required.

The vital importance of the translating and interpreting service was highlighted recently with the admission of a deaf patient to Tambo Ward.

After it was identified the patient was an Auslan user, a senior nurse on the ward was able to use the simple procedure document (available to all BRHS staff on Prompt) on how to access and book an interpreter for the patient.

An interpreter from the Melbourne-based Auslan Connections connected with the patient via Zoom each morning, to discuss the patient’s needs, how he was feeling, and any hopes or concerns he had for his treatment.

The interpreter then relayed that information to staff.

BRHS’ Disability Liaison Officer April Freely says it’s very important that all staff are aware of the interpreting service, and how to access it, so patients can receive immediate communications assistance as soon as they arrive.

“Can you imagine being in hospital, being in pain or discomfort, or being scared, and not being able to communicate with anyone around you?” she asked. “Not only must that be very stressful for the patient, it also means we, as healthcare providers, are not able to provide the best care because we can’t learn from the patient how they are feeling.”

All frontline staff are encouraged to read the BRHS Clinical Guideline on accessing translation services, and familiarise themselves on what to do.

Here’s a few key things to remember:

  • It is important to ask any person hard of hearing if they want an interpreter.
  • BRHS can arrange an interpreter for medical appointments  – although advance notice is best to ensure bookings can be made.
  • When setting an interpreter session via Zoom/telehealth, ensure the patient can clearly see the interpreter. Check that lighting etc. doesn’t interfere with patient’s view of the screen.
  • Ensure the interpreter can hear all speakers in the meeting
  • Staff should talk to the patient, not the interpreter.
  • Give the interpreter time to translate any information  – especially if it is specific medical terminology
  • Ask if the patient has questions or needs further information
  • Give the patient time with the interpreter to have conversation.

To learn more about the translation and interpreting service at BRHS, reach out to our Disability Liaison Officer at or phone 5150 3384.