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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course Special Topics in Phlebotomy. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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Language Barriers

Most health care facilities serve a very diverse population of patients. In everyday practice, the phlebotomist may encounter patients whose primary language is not English, who speak no English at all or who are unable to speak at all. A language barrier should not interfere with providing excellent service to the patient.

The phlebotomist often has several options to effectively communicate with patients who speak a language other than what the phlebotomist speaks and understands.





Professional Medical Interpreter

Many healthcare facilities have staff interpreters who are always available

Not all languages/dialects are available

It is best to use the professional interpreter when available

Telephone language line; telephone with 2 receivers

Trained interpreters in any language are available 24/7

Telephone must be moved to patient room; must pay for this service

Any language in the world is available; professional interpreters

Staff member fluent in language

Familiar with medical procedures and facility policy

Not always readily available; unable to perform other duties while interpreting

Family member

Often readily available

Inaccurate interpretation of information; HIPAA violations possible

It is not advisable to use family members as interpreters; children may have to inform parents of unfortunate news

The phlebotomist should be encouraged to use an interpreter rather than point, push or pull a patient for compliance. Many local schools and universities offer specific short courses for medical professionals in languages such as Spanish or American Sign language.

The use of a professional service, either in person or via phone, is the preferred choice.