The Work of Language Interpretation in Health Care: Complex, Challenging, Exhausting, and Often Invisible

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The value of qualified language interpretation services for limited-English-proficient patients is gaining increasing recognition by policy makers and researchers in the United States. Yet the actual work experiences of health care interpreters have not been adequately studied. The purpose of this qualitative research was to explore the work experiences of formal and informal interpreters (n = 27). The core narrative finding from the interview data was the complex, challenging, exhausting, and often invisible work of language interpretation. Critical examination of health care interpreters’ complex work and interactions with patients, providers, and administrators is needed to provide more effective and integrated services for limited-English-proficient patients.