The Student Room Group

Placement Fail interpreter missing during assessment. Who’s at fault?


I need help. Today I failed a clinical placement in physiotherapy. Long story short, I was attempting to ask a patient to stand even though the patient was partial weight bearing the affected limb. The problem is however this patient did not speak English and no interpreter was booked and it was difficult to give direct communication. A member of staff was able to partially translate the session. I did not have a chance to explain the patient’s weight bearing status before my supervisor interrupted

NHS policy states:

Professionals and primary care staff may use their language and communication skills to assist patients in making appointments or identifying communication requirements, (language brokering) but should not, other than where immediate and necessary treatment is required, take on the role of an interpreter unless this is part of their defined job role and they are qualified to do so. Staff trained and used as interpreters must be covered by indemnity insurance (where clinical staff are bilingual they should use their professional judgement to decide whether they
are able to competently communicate with the patient).

Could I please get some advice. As a student was the session unfair to complete. At the time it was very difficult for me to explain to the patient because of the language barrier
So there’s two things here:

1) Can you translate / use others to help with translating.
2) Should you have failed your placement.

To answer 1, it’s not ideal to have either yourself or a relative as an example translate, but it’s not illegal or strictly against policy. It’s very common on the wards for instance to use a member of staff who speaks a language to translate where no interpreter is available, much as you have experienced. For explaining weight bearing status as an example, I wouldn’t be concerned about using someone to translate. If you were discussing financial power of attourney with a family then that would be another matter as a patient could be open to abuse with a family member / member of staff telling you lies such as I want to leave all of my house to the healthcare assistant on ward 3b. As with many policies, there is a reasonably large grey area.

In terms of being unfair to complete the session, I suspect the answer is no. If you as the clinician felt things were unsafe then you should have stopped. If the patient wasn’t following instructions or went to do something silly then the expectation is you would physically guide them - a hand on the chest to stop them standing, a lift of the affected leg to put it in position etc. It’s difficult from what you’ve written to understand exactly what went on, but it seems that the patient has gone to stand up and your educator has jumped in and stopped them? For me personally as an educator I wouldn’t have failed you on this, but is there more to the story here?
(edited 1 month ago)

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