Working with Medical Interpreters Quick Guide
- Use qualified interpreters to interpret.
- Do not depend on children or other relatives and friends to interpret.
- Have a brief pre- and post-interview meeting with the interpreter.
- Establish a good working relationship with the interpreter.
- Expect the interpreter to take notes if things get complicated.
- Expect the interpreter to interrupt when necessary for clarification.
- Plan to allow enough time for the interpreted session.
- Address yourself to the interviewee, not to the interpreter.
- Don’t say anything that you don’t want the other party to hear.
- Use words, not just gestures, to convey your meaning.
- Be prepared to repeat yourself in different words if your message is not understood.
- Speak in a normal voice, clearly, and not too fast.
- Avoid jargon and technical terms.
- Keep your utterances short, pausing to permit interpretation.
- Ask only one question at a time.
- Dealing with cultural differences and the personality of the patient is primarily the provider’s job, not the interpreter’s.
- The need for clarity and understanding is paramount in any setting where people seek services. But in a hospital or clinic, life-and-death-decisions hinge on immediate, accurate communication. The consequences of poor communication can be devastating. Inaccurate history-taking, unnecessary testing, and misdiagnosis are just a few of the risks.
- Federal law recognizes these potential risks to health care consumers by mandating “linguistic accessibility to health care” under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Minnesota law also requires public health care institutions to provide services to people with limited English proficiency.
- Contact your patient’s health plan to find out how to access an interpreter. If possible, match your patient and interpreter by gender and age.
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- Find more detailed information in the Minnesota Refugee Health Provider Guide: Medical Interpreters chapter along with appendices and additional resources.