Graduate School
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Dr Konosoang Sobane

Home country: Lesotho

Year of enrolment: 2010

Graduation date: March 2013

Department:  General Linguistics

Supervisor: Dr Kate Huddlestone

Dissertation title: Language discordant HIV and AIDS interactions in Lesotho health care centres


This PhD study investigated the organisational structure of medical communicative facilities and the related communicative experiences of health care providers and patients in HIV and AIDS care centres where there is language discordance between physicians and patients. Such discordance refers specifically to communication in contexts where patients and health care providers speak a number of different, mostly mutually unintelligible first languages (L1s) and where speakers have varying levels of proficiency in a lingua franca such as English. This study considers key moments within the organisational communication structure to assess how well the structure meets its communicative aims. The sites of care that provided empirical data in this study, were a public health clinic which is a division of a state hospital, and a privately run day care clinic both located near Maseru, the capital city of Lesotho. The participants were drawn from four categories, namely physicians, nurses, lay interpreters and patients. Data collection was done through semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions and direct observations of the study sites. The data was later transcribed interpreted and analysed according to insights gained from Organisation Theory on the one hand and Thematic Analysis and Qualitative Data Analysis on the other hand. The most important result of the study is the recognition of organisational fragmentation of care into different units which helps to facilitate communication where patients and physicians show marked language discordance. Further results illuminate several challenges that are encountered by participants in mediating and making meaning where language diversity is such that physicians' linguistic repertoire does not match the repertoires of patients and local HCPs. The study highlights several institutional and interpersonal strategies that are used to overcome these challenges and to assure effective communication in the particular institutions. It also shows how some of these strategies fail to fully address the communicative challenges identified. The findings of this study suggest that in multilingual clinical contexts there is a need for more dedicated attention to interpreting practices, to the kinds of material distributed among patients and, more generally, to make consultative decisions on improved systems to put in place in order to facilitate communication related to quality health care.

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