I borrow your ears and lend you my voice: Social workers and public service interpreters developing interprofessional collaboration


  • Linnéa Åberg Institutionen för Socialt arbete Linnéuniversitetet
  • Kristina Gustafsson Institutionen för Socialt arbete, Linnéuniversitetet
  • Eva Nordström Institutionen för Socialt arbete Linnéuniversitetet


This study situates social work in multilingual societies where social work practices are often managed through three parties, social workers, clients, and public service interpreters. Based on their respective professional regulations, social workers and interpreters are responsible for the matter of the clients. The interpreter is responsible for understanding what the client wants to express. And the social worker is responsible for understanding the client's desires, needs, and experiences. These responsibilities intersect. However, they can also lead to situations when the clients’ matters are not heard. In this paper, we explore interprofessional collaboration between public service interpreters and social workers as they find ways to connect, learn and mobilise to improve their capacities as regards the client.

The paper is theoretically situated in boundary literature, which has proved that the negotiation that occurs when different professional boundaries cross is vital for learning, change, and development. Empirical data is retrieved from dialogues where interpreters, social workers, and social worker students reflect on critical incidents based on actual events from interpreted encounters in social work settings. This paper taps into the extensive field of interprofessional exchange by adding collaboration between social work and public service interpreters. The result points at three different areas where boundary awareness and boundary-crossing have implications for interprofessional learning:

• Joining ethics for social workers and interpreters. Combining principles of impartiality and relation building.
• Examining misunderstandings. Coordinating who listens and who asks the questions
• Building trust. Shifting roles when clients allocate the social worker’s role to the interpreter.


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