HOW TO USE A MEDICAL INTEPRETER EFFECTIVELY

Hello all! Working in healthcare, you will come across patients from different backgrounds. Some of these patients may not speak English at all, meaning you will need to use an interpreter. For some nurses, this may seem like a difficult situation to navigate. I decided to share a few simple tips on using a medical interpreter effectively. Keep reading if you are interested!

Disclaimer: This post is for educational purposes. Any thoughts or opinions expressed are my own and do not reflect the entirety of nursing.

1. ALLOW THE INTERPRETER TO INTRODUCE THEMSELVES.

Allow your interpreter to introduce themselves. They are also apart of the team and as a patient, it is helpful to know who is helping you. Before you begin (unless it is a dire emergency), let the interpreter feel free to do so.

2. LOOK AT THE PATIENT AND SPEAK TO THE PATIENT.

This may sound so basic, but I notice so many people will stare at the intepreter when speaking and turn their back to the patient. Look directly at the patient when you are speaking and waiting on the interpreter to finish.

This one may sound silly as well. This is by far the biggest mistake I notice people do when using an interpreter. Many people will simply speak to the interpreter. For example one may say “Can you ask her what symptoms she is having?”. Remember the interpreter is not the patient. Speak to the patient like “normal”.

3. PAUSE AFTER 1-2 SENTENCES.

Stick to pausing after a phrase to allow the interpreter to communicate what you are saying to the patient. Do not forget you have an interpeter beside you. This method will allow for a seamless communication channel.

4. SPEAK CLEARLY.

Please, do not mumble or mutter. This is especially important if you are using an over the phone interpreter. Patients can tell if the intepreter is having trouble undestanding you and it may comeoff as unprofessional. Do your best to speak clearly and enunciate the best you can.

5. THANK YOUR INTERPRETER.

Always, say thank you! Medical interperters are an important part of the team. Without the we could not provide well-rounded care.

Those are some quick, simple tips! I wanted this post to be a quick read. I hope you enjoyed! Thanks for reading!

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