6 Ways to Feel More Comfortable Working with a Medical Interpreter

It’s becoming more common for health care providers to encounter non-English speaking patients on a daily basis. The presence of highly qualified medical interpreters in the exam room is increasingly common, too. If you’ve never worked with a medical interpreter before, here are six things to remember to help you feel more comfortable as you develop this professional, working relationship.

  1. Know That Interpreting Takes Time

Appointments that involve non-English speaking patients often take longer than those that do not require an interpreter. Add buffer time around these appointments so they do not throw the rest of your schedule off. This will help you focus better on the patient during the appointment.

  1. Think of the Interpreter as a Colleague

Many providers are surprised that medical interpreters enter and leave the room when they do rather than stay in the room with the patient. The interpreter is there to ensure high-quality care and is a member of the patient’s care team, just as you are. Expect professional behavior from the medical interpreters you work with and treat them as colleagues rather than friends of the patient.

  1. Follow the Interpreter’s Lead

You are communicating through the interpreter to the patient. Interpretation takes time and considerable skill. Pausing after each complete thought will help the interpreter keep up with you. Don’t be surprised if the interpreter gently puts a hand out to ask you to pause so he or she can accurately and thoroughly interpret your statements to your patient.

  1. Ask One Question at a Time

At first, asking one question at a time may seem unnatural and feel as if it’s slowing down the appointment. But after years of experience, Intelligere can assure you that asking one question at a time saves time in the long run. You are less likely to have to clarify statements or repeat yourself. It’s more likely that you’ll get more thorough answers to your questions, too.

  1. Remember That Interpreters Must Interpret Everything

It is best practices for medical interpreters to interpret everything said in the exam room. This includes irrelevant or repetitive phrases, side conversations, and yes, even curse words. Keep your focus on your patient and let communication between the two of you flow through the interpreter. This will help you remember that the interpreter is speaking for your patient (and for you!), not summarizing or paraphrasing.

  1. Partner with a Professional, Highly Qualified Medical Interpreter

Friends and family provide excellent emotional support during appointments and treatment. But most do not have the expertise to interpret detailed medical information between you and your patients. Don’t rely on a parent, friend, or child to communicate the essential knowledge you need to share.

Instead, partner with a professional medical interpreter who is trained to interpret complex medical information. Working with a highly qualified medical interpreter improves patient care and ensures patients follow through with their treatment plans. To find a qualified medical interpreter, contact Intelligere today.


known languages in the world