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How to Use an Interpreter Appropriately

Involving an interpreter should bring a positive experience to both the health care providers and the patients. This article will outline how to use the interpreters best. Read on.

When booking the appointment

  • doctors, in house interpretationThe need of an interpreter should be identified at the appointment. This will give enough time to find and book for the best interpreter.
  • Ask the patient if they prefer a male or female interpreter.
  • Allocate extra time to consult the interpreter before the real visit. You should introduce the interpreter to the patients, and such meetings might take longer than the medical visits.
  • If the family accepts the interpreter, it is best if you use him or her for all their visits.

Before the visit

  • It is important to let the patient know that they should keep time. The interpreter might have several other appointments hence their time should be respected. Try as much to avoid delays.
  • Discuss the aim of the visit with the interpreter. Make it known to them that the families should make the medical decisions all by themselves.

During the visit

  • interpretorSit in such a manner that everyone can see the other. You could use a triangular seating arrangement.
  • Introduce the interpreter to the family and let him explain his role in the meeting, if he is meeting them for the first time.
  • After introductions, ask the family if they are comfortable with the interpreter.
  • Let them tell you how much of their information they want interpreted. Some can understand either English or French so they will only need their answers interpreted. If they seem unsure, assure them that everything will be interpreted.
  • Explain to them your role as a doctor and the purpose of your meeting.
  • Do not use abbreviations, jargon, jokes, slang and acronyms. They might lead to confusion.
  • Repeat the important explanations and instructions to reinforce the health message. If you suspect miscommunication, use different words. To be sure that they understood ask them to repeat the information back to you.
  • Give them enough time to ask questions.

After the visit

  • Have a quick briefing with the interpreter. They should point out anything they observed of importance to the doctor.
  • Request the interpreter to write down the instructions for the patient.
  • Ask the interpreter to accompany them for lab visits or to the pharmacy.
  • If they are okay with it, use the same interpreter for all office visits.