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 patient’s rights.

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”, 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#.

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

  • 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.

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