Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools
You are here: Home Cross-Cultural Health Interpretation Interpreting Pearls: Pre-session

Interpreting Pearls: Pre-session

Date Authored: July 24, 2016


The following videos are meant to illustrate some best practices in working with medical interpreters. These two role-play scenarios and their subsequent discussion videos focus on the importance of providing contextual information to the interpreter. This is called pre-session, pre-conference, or AIDET. AIDET is an acronym that describes the essential components for introduction: Acknowledge the other person, Introduce oneself, state the expected Duration of the encounter, Explain context or provide background information, say Thank you. 

The best practice is to have a brief pre-session (30-60 seconds is usually more than sufficient) between the provider and interpreter before walking into the encounter. However, in practice we know that the interpreter often walks into an encounter after the provider and patient have already started communicating, be that in ambulatory, emergency, or in-patient settings. For that reason, we chose to show examples of pre-sessions where the physician and interpreter transparently communicate their intentions to the patient before talking about her.

Medical Interpreter Pre-Session Scenario 1

In this video, the physician and patient already know one another. The interpreter introduces himself to the patient. The provider offers some background information to the medical interpreter, providing helpful context for the interpreter. The physician asks the patient’s permission to give the interpreter that information. Also note the interpreter’s use of first-person speech, another expected best practice.

Scenario 1 Discussion of Scenario 1 

Medical Interpreter Pre-Session Scenario 2

As in the previous role-play, the interpreter introduces himself to the patient, even though they have met previously, and he uses first-person interpretation. However, in this second scenario, we see that the interpreter has received some background information from the patient while in the waiting room. The interpreter asks the patient’s permission before sharing that information with the provider. Not only does this provide context to the provider, it also allows the physician to show empathy to the patient.

Scenario 2 Discussion of Scenario 2 


Interpreters are an essential part of the medical team. Pre-sessions provide crucial information that will help both the clinician and the interpreter to communicate effectively with the patient. In addition to the examples in the videos above, pre-sessions are useful to:

  • Make certain that the right provider is seeing the right patient
  • Verify that the interpreter speaks the correct language/dialect for the patient
  • Help the interpreter know the appropriate tone of voice or mode of communication to use based on the situation
  • Set expectations of how long an encounter will last or how long an interpreter is available
  • Advise both provider and interpreter of any additional concerns before working with the patient