Case vignette

Providing language assistance along with family support.

Inclusive Language Illustration

Providing language assistance along with family support.

Kashvi, an adult Southeast Asian woman, comes to meet with a new primary care provider to discuss some recent pain she’s been having. She speaks limited English and brings her 13-year-old son Sadhil to help translate and speak to the doctor.

Kashvi, an adult Southeast Asian woman, came in to meet with a new primary care provider to discuss some recent pain she had been having. She spoke limited English and brought her 13-year-old son, Sadhil to help translate and speak to the doctor.

At the start of the session, her son explained that his mother did not speak much English and proceeded to share with the doctor what symptoms she was having. The doctor thanked Sadhil and inquired about whether his mother would be comfortable with having translation services join the session via phone. The son spoke to his mother and he said that she was unsure. Kashvi thought that her son could probably handle translating during the session.

The doctor replied, “It must be very helpful for your mother that you’re here and can provide information and share what she’s been experiencing. It can be very important to have that support. Sometimes though, there are certain things such as medical terms and symptoms that can be difficult to translate. In these cases, it can be very helpful to have a translator–in addition to having you here–to help support your mom in expressing her concerns and needs. What do you think about that?

Sadhil shared this with his mother and both agreed it would be useful to have a translator available. Sadhil would still be able to help his mother navigate the appointment.

Things to consider.

01

Family members can serve as informal translators in medical and mental health appointments, but can lack the language necessary to be able to appropriately translate for medical terms and symptoms.

02

Acknowledging and accommodating patient requests (having her son participate in the appointment) and also coordinating for needs (having translation services available) is important for making a patient feel heard and supported.

Question to think about:

How would you feel about incorporating family members in care, while ensuring patients have the appropriate external resources available?

Ask for pronouns
Ask how the patient is doing
Ask for consent before touching
All of the above