Guidelines for Partnering with Medical Interpreters

Always request a medical interpreter to communicate medical information with non-English, LEP (Limited English Proficient) and Deaf or Hard of Hearing patients and/or families to ensure patients' rights.

View the Disparities Solutions Center document: Guidlines for Working with an Interpreter.

Huddle with interpreter prior to seeing the patient

  • Give background and goals before entering the room

Speak directly to the patient

  • Address the patient, not the interpreter
  • Maintain primary eye contact with the patient
  • Don’t “think out loud." The interpreter must interpret everything said within the encounter

Pace your speech

  • Keep a comfortable pace that will allow time for interpretation
  • Avoid medical jargon and idiomatic expressions to make the encounter less complicated
  • Listen before redirecting
  • Give full information on diagnosis, tests, and treatment
  • Confirm understanding and agreement with patient to ensure compliance
  • Encourage interpreter to clarify terms with you. Feel free to ask interpreter to interpret back to you whenever you are concerned about the accuracy and completeness of the interpretation


  • Use the interpreter as a resource for you
  • Speak privately with the medical interpreter who may perceive cultural subtleties more clearly


  • Document the presence of the medical interpreter on the patient's chart
  • For remote interpreters, document the interpreter ID number

Use Professional Medical Interpreters

To ensure complete and accurate communication and to provide patients the ability to fully participate in their health care:

  • The use of bilingual staff is strongly discouraged
  • The use of family members is strongly discouraged
  • The use of children as medical interpreters is not allowed