BICOM Partners
Project description: background, aims and result

Medical care for patients with limited proficiency in the national language causes serious problems in European hospitals. Staff members are not equipped to communicate in foreign languages. The use of English as a lingua franca depends on the educational background of both the patient and the health care provider. In view of these limitations, bilingual staff members or relatives of the patients frequently act as ad hoc-interpreters. In some countries professional interpreting services for medical purposes exist, but due to financial and organisational reasons they are not accessible in all hospitals. Regardless of whether professional services are available or not, ad hoc-interpreting will continue to play a major role in communication with non-native patients in all European countries.

During a two-year exchange process leading clinic employees, linguists, and cultural scientists, public health-experts, adult education trainers and ad hoc-interpreters (employees or volunteers) came together to highlight multilingualism among clinic employees as a human resource. This resource, however, requires constant encouragement and promotion. The overall goal is to maintain the EU’s linguistic diversity and to foster and enhance linguistic competencies among clinic employees with non-native linguistic background.

In the project conditions and existing practices in different European metropolitan areas have been investigated. This was done via group discussions, meetings with local experts and excursions. Participants brought in their own experience and reflected on the local initiatives for ameliorating medical services for non-native patients. Together, they’ve developed a booklet depicting local and national experiences, initiatives and approaches (see above: Booklet). In a workshop with interpreters of the four partner countries a list of needs of a good interpreting service was worked out (see above: Material).