What is needed in culturally competent healthcare systems? A qualitative exploration of culturally diverse patients and professional interpreters in an Australian healthcare setting

Jennifer White, Trish Plompen, Leanne Tao, Emily Micallef, Terrence Haines

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Culturally competent health care service delivery can improve health outcomes, increasing the efficiency of clinical staff, and greater patient satisfaction. We aimed to explore the experience of patients with limited English proficiency and professional interpreters in an acute hospital setting. Methods: In-depth interviews explored the experiences of four culturally and linguistically diverse communities with regards to their recent hospitalisation and access to interpreters. We also conducted focus group with professional interpreters working. Data were analysed using an inductive thematic approach with constant comparison. Results: Individual interviews were conducted with 12 patients from Greek, Chinese, Dari and Vietnamese backgrounds. Focus groups were conducted with 11 professional interpreters. Key themes emerged highlighting challenges to the delivery of health care due distress and lack of advocacy in patients. Interpreters struggled due to a reliance on family to act as interpreters and hospital staff proficiency in working with them. Conclusions: In an era of growing ethnic diversity this study confirms the complexity of providing a therapeutic relationships in contemporary health practice. This can be enhanced by training towards the effective use of professional interpreters in a hospital setting. Such efforts should be multidisciplinary and collective in order to ensure patients don't fall through the gaps with regards to the provision of culturally competent care.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1096
Number of pages8
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Aug 2019


  • Access to care
  • Culture competence
  • Inpatient medicine
  • Interpreters
  • Qualitative

Cite this