Triadic medical interaction with a bilingual doctor

Louisa Willoughby, Marisa Cordella, Simon Musgrave, Julie Bradshaw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


While studies of interpreted medical interactions are
common, there is relatively little research on bilingual
doctors who choose to consult in the first language
of their migrant patients. This paper presents a case
study of one such language-concordant consultation
conducted in Italian in the outpatients’ clinic of an
Australian hospital, a triadic encounter where the
patient was accompanied by her Italian-speaking
daughter. In this consultation English medical terms
were sometimes introduced but Italian was the main
language of the consultation. The communication
between all parties was notably very smooth and we

reflect on reasons for this. These include the commit-
ment of all parties to using Italian and the proactive

role played by the patient’s Italian-speaking daughter

in supporting and occasionally challenging her moth-
er’s account of affairs. We conclude by reflecting on

issues that bilingual doctors need to be aware of before
undertaking to consult in more than one language.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)222-232
Number of pages11
JournalCommunication and Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • language-concordant physicians
  • medical communication
  • medical interpreting
  • migrant
  • triadic medical consultations

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