9 Tips For Working With Certified Interpreters in Health Care

9 Tips for Working With Interpreters in Health Care

Certified interpreters in health care settings are vital for working with and overcoming language barriers. Patient care for Non-English speaking and limited-English populations suffers when patients and doctors don’t have the appropriate language services.

Telelanguage has been a leading provider of interpretation and translation services since 1991, and 70% of our current clients are in the health care industry.

As a top provider of trained medical interpreters, we have a few tips that will help health care professionals communicate effectively when working with interpreters in health care.


9 Tips for Working With a Medical Interpreter (Video)


1. Recognize the Value of Medical Interpreters

A study by the American College of Emergency Physicians analyzed interpreter errors that had clinical consequences, finding that “the error rate was significantly lower for professional interpreters than for ad hoc interpreters–12 percent as opposed to 22 percent.” NPR

Certified interpreters in health care settings are trained in medical terminology, have cultural sensitivity training and are professional, trained interpreters.


Use Certified Medical Interpreters

Whether using onsite interpreters, telephonic interpreters or video remote interpreters, it’s vital that health care professionals use certified medical interpreters in health care settings, because of the extensive understanding of medical terminology to avoid interpretation errors that could lead to patient safety issues.


2. When to Use On-site Medical Interpreters

Situations For Onsite Interpretation Services:

  • Use onsite interpreters for lengthy appointments or interviews planned in advance.
  • Use onsite interpreters if the conversation will be complex or time-consuming.
  • If multiple patient appointments are being scheduled close to each other, it can be best to use an onsite interpreter.
  • Accommodations for preference, i.e. if the Limited English Speaker prefers to have the interpreter onsite or feels uncomfortable using the telephone.
  • If hand and body gestures are essential to get a message across, using onsite interpretation can be an essential service.


3. Give a Brief Overview of the Situation

Briefly explain the purpose of appointments or calls with interpreters in health care environments. This will aid the interpreter in being ableForeign Language Usage U.S. to provide the most appropriate tone for the situation. For example, a routine follow-up would naturally have a different tone than an urgent or emergency situation.


4. Speak Clearly With a Normal Tone

Delivering your message in complete and concise sentences will simplify the message and maximize comprehension. Speaking clearly to your patient in your normal tone will cut down on having to repeat or clarify and maximize your time with the patient and health care interpreter. This will also help NES and LEP patients to feel more natural during the interpretation process. Health care settings, like hospitals, can already be stressful for patients, and when a language barrier is present, it’s important that the individual feels as comfortable as possible to avoid miscommunication.


5. Be Aware of Cultural Factors

When working with linguistically and culturally diverse populations in health care settings, there may be cultural differences that come up. Telelanguage certified interpreters are trained extensively to recognize and work with cultural differences effectively. As cultural factors may be a stressful issue, we provide culturally sensitivity training for our health care clients so they may work effectively with diverse populations and communities.


6. Use Simple and Uncomplicated Language

Refrain from using metaphors, acronyms, slang or idioms. It’s natural that such phrases as “feeling blue,” or “when it rains, it pours” have  become ingrained our everyday language as native English speakers, but when working with patients where there is a language barrier, such phrases may not translate well into to the target language, which can cause confusion. Use simple and direct language wherever possible.


7. Try Not to Interrupt the Interpretation

patient-centered-care-healthTry not to interrupt during the interpretation process. In the health care interpretation process, it is necessary for one person to speak at a time to minimize any confusion or miscommunication which can lead to errors. It will also cut down on having to clarify or repeat information that may not be heard correctly.


8. Remember to Pause Between Sentences

When working with a medical interpreter in the health care setting, remember to pause between complete thoughts and sentences. This will allow for a more natural flow of communication and will ensure that the interpreter does not have to memorize long paragraphs at a time, which may need to be repeated. Keeping the conversation flow natural is also helpful for NES and LEP patients as it can cause anxiety to listen to long paragraphs at a time in a language they do not understand.


9. Speak Directly to the Patient

Be careful to speak to the patient directly, and not to the interpreter. The medical interpreter is only there to provide understanding and communication, so speak to the NES or LEP patient as if the interpreter was not present. Making eye contact with your patient (not at the interpreter, phone – or screen if using Video Remote Interpreting) and speaking in the first person will bring a natural flow to the conversation. This will help patients feel more comfortable in the setting, which will yield the highest level of accuracy.


Utilizing these 9 tips when working with a health care interpreter will help you communicate effectively with your Non-English Speaking and Limited-English Proficient patients and clients. Have you tried any of these tips yet? Do you have any other tips that have been helpful for working with professional interpreters in the health care setting? Let us know in the comments.

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Telelanguage has a 26-year history of providing the highest-quality language services for health care organizations nationwide. Looking for a more reliable language service provider to help you meet patient needs? Telelanguage can help! Our interpreters in health care are medically certified and superior-trained. Contact us for a free demo and get you interpretation and translation questions answered.


Certified medical interpreters ready to speak in over 300 languages!

Call us today at 888-983-5352

Quality and expert interpretations for medical appointments are available telephonically, face to face, or by video remote!