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Clinical Pearl: Working with Interpreters

Date Authored: December 01, 2005

Harborview Medical Center (Seattle WA) provides interpretation for approximately 83 languages, and has recently created small laminated cards with some brief guidelines about working with interpreters.

  1. Briefly check in with the interpreter, informing them of the goal of visit and asking for cultural input.
  2. Assure the patient that we are ALL bound by confidentiality.
  3. Once the visit begins, all communication will be interpreted.
  4. Speak directly to the patient.
  5. Ask one question at a time, avoiding the use of jargon, slang or metaphor(s).
  6. Briefly check-in with the interpreter after the visit, asking for additional cultural input. Share feedback about the interpretation process.


Contact information (telephone and/or web site) should also be provided.