The experiences of Burmese healthcare interpreters ( Iam ) in maternity services in Thailand Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND:Interpreters (lam in Thai) have been employed in maternity services in Thailand due to increasing numbers of Burmese women migrating to Thailand. Access to healthcare interpreters is crucial for health professionals and Burmese migrant women using Thai maternity services but no studies have examined the role of the lam. AIM:This paper explores the role and experiences of healthcare interpreters (lam) working in Thailand. The perspectives of nurse-midwives and migrant Burmese women regarding the role of the lam are also included. METHODS:Ethnographic methods including observation of interactions between women, nurse-midwives, other health professionals and the lam were used. Individual interviews were conducted with four Burmese lam, nine health professionals, and 10 Burmese women. The data were analysed using thematic analysis. FINDINGS:Three major themes captured the role and experiences of the Burmese lam; 'more than an interpreter', 'challenges in sustaining the role of the lam', and 'benefits for me and my community'. The Burmese lam had two key components to their role: interpreter and, healthcare worker. Key challenges included lack of clarity around role boundaries, limited training, and, low remuneration. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS:Despite the challenges, the lam believed their presence encouraged Burmese women to attend antenatal care. They described benefits for themselves, including 'on-the-job' training. Community trust in the lam meant that Burmese women and families sought their advice within the community. This study demonstrates the important role that migrant workers play in collaborating with nurse-midwives to ensure access to maternity services in middle-income countries.

publication date

  • 2017