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Difficulties interpreting in casual conversation with patients?

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by kik220 kik220 (New Member) New Member

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Thank you for taking time to open this topic! Do you ever find yourself miming at patients to try to communicate with them? I am a student in an innovation class at Lehigh University. My team is trying to develop a solution to ease casual conversation between nurses and patients. Please answer this survey to better the relationship between nurse and patient. My team would greatly appreciate your input. The survey is anonymous and should take no longer than 5 minutes.

What industry do you work in? *


Consumer Services

Law Enforcement

Hotel Management


How often do you interact with consumers who speak a language other than your native language? *


When put in a situation where you must communicate with a consumer who speaks another language other than your native language, how do you communicate? *

Through devices

Translating apps

Using hand gestures

Reaching out to a bilingual coworker


Please explain your current translation methods (devices/apps used)


What are some of the disadvantages you have seen with your commonly selected translation method? *

Connectivity (WiFi connection is slow, etc)

Accuracy of Translation



Battery life (if using a device)



What features would your ideal translation device include?



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TriciaJ has 35 years experience as a RN and works as a Retired.

1,112 Likes; 5 Followers; 30,821 Visitors; 2,771 Posts

Casual conversations between nurses and patients?  What exactly does that mean?

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13 Visitors; 2 Posts

We have heard the term casual conversation being used in the sense of simple interactions with patients. I apologize for not being clear in the post. Here are some examples: "Are you cold?" "Would you like ice water?" etc. If there is a better term for this type of conversation, we would love to correct our terminology.

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Here.I.Stand has 16 years experience as a BSN, RN and works as a RN.

107 Likes; 1 Follower; 41,560 Visitors; 4,771 Posts

For anything even remotely assessment or medical related, we MUST use our facility’s interpreter services options.  We have in-person, iPad, and telephone language line options — I list those in order of ideal.  

Otherwise, I try to read the patient’s nonverbals, although it’s not foolproof as nonverbals can be subject to cultural variations.  Think cultures that value stoicism — I might miss that they are in pain based on nonverbals alone.  

Occasionally I might use gestures.  One recent experience was a minimal-English-speaking Muslim visitor using a chux as a prayer rug.  She had improvised.    I got a bath blanket for her, pointed to her area of the floor and said “for your prayer.”  I then indicated a 6-in square with my hands, and indicating the chux said “this is so small.”  Apparently she understood because I got a thickly accented “thank you Sister.”  

Now had this been a patient, and had I been assessing their spiritual needs?  Interpreter.  

I have used Google Translate on occasion for simple things, e.g. “Do you have questions for me?  I can call an interpreter,” or “are you warm enough or hot or cold?” 

In the case of water, I might simply offer water vs ask if the pt us thirsty.  

I don’t typically ask fellow nursing staff for help, 1) because they have their own work to do, and 2) if verbal communication is truly needed, we are supposed to use the established interpreter services.  They are trained and vetted in MEDICAL interpretation, as opposed to one who is just CONVERSATIONALLY fluent.

Main barriers are 1) the time waiting for an interpreter, 2) the hassle of the devices themselves e.g. getting and logging into the iPad.  

Ideal translation device doesn’t exist.  In-person interpreters — i.e. living, skilled PEOPLE— are the ideal.

Edited by Here.I.Stand

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