Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Nursing

Dissertation Committee

Jane Georges, PhD, RN; Cynthia D. Connelly, PhD, RN, FAAN; Caroline Etland, PhD, RN


Nursing, Interpreter, Registered Nurse, Communication, Interpretation, Translation, Language, Bilingual


The use of language interpreters in the health care setting constitutes a vital part of provider-patient communication but remains a relatively unexplored phenomenon. Registered nurses (RNs) are often called upon to serve as interpreters when linguistically diverse patients constitute a large segment of the patient population. That RNs serve simultaneously in an interpreter role – in addition to clinical and advocacy roles – is a complex facet of contemporary nursing practice in a diverse U.S. culture. The purpose of this qualitative descriptive study was to examine the lived experience of RNs serving as interpreters in health care institutions in Southern California. Specifically, this study sought to describe RNs perceptions of their role as interpreters and their attitudes and beliefs regarding their interpersonal efficacy in this role. Ten RNs with a documented level of language proficiency from health care institutions in Southern California completed a semi-structured recorded interview. Using process and line by line coding, the 10 interviews yielded four main categories: protection of patient, uncertainty, challenges, and RN interpreter effect. The following descriptive summary emerged from this qualitative descriptive study: nurse interpreters may harm the patient-provider interaction by increasing noise, but they protect the patient by reducing uncertainty, increasing comfort, and creating a connection while offering interpreting services. Implications for future study include the need for the identification and analysis of the factors shaping the RN interpretive experience in the health care setting.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access