International Journal of Arts and Humanities

ISSN 2360-7998

How Communication Strategies Impact Medical Information Dissemination: A Case Study of SLIs in Nairobi County Hospitals

Abstract: Healthcare professionals' unfamiliarity with Kenya Sign Language (KSL) creates communication barriers that hinder access to healthcare for deaf patients in Kenya. While sign language interpreters (SLIs) can bridge this gap, some lack the required communicative competence, leading to miscommunication and misunderstanding. The problem is exacerbated by differences between spoken and sign languages, a limited medical sign vocabulary, and the complexity of medical terms. To improve healthcare outcomes for the deaf, SLIs with strong communicative competence are crucial. This study aimed to assess the communicative competence of SLIs. Specifically, the objective was to evaluate the extent to which the communication strategies employed by SLIs in selected hospitals in Nairobi are efficacious in communicating medical information. This study used a multiple case study design and qualitative research methods to assess the communicative competence of SLIs. The study sample consisted of five SLIs employed in selected hospitals, six healthcare professionals, and six deaf patients. The researcher used open-ended questions during interviews and direct observations during medical procedures to establish the competence of the interpreters. The researcher analysed the collected data using both thematic and content analysis methods. Two models guided the study: the communicative competence model (Canale & Swain, 1980; Canale, 1983) and the meaning-based model (Russell, 2005). The findings of the study revealed struggles that deaf patients face during communication, communication challenges faced by SLIs, and strategies they employ in dealing with the communication challenges. The study concluded that SLIs in hospitals need to achieve certain levels of communicative competence to communicate effectively and relay medical information adequately. We hope the study will provide the authorities with insights to identify training needs for SLIs and explore the use of technology-assisted communication tools in healthcare settings.


Keywords: communication, communicative competence, sign language, interpretation, healthcare