If you work in the medical field, you’ve surely seen the need for an interpreter at least once in a while, if not every day. Fortunately, many clinics now make sure this type of professional is available to help doctors and patients communicate.
If you’re not yet used to having a medical interpreter in the office with you, here’s how to get familiar with this situation so you and your patients can benefit from interpreting services right away.
Know When to Rely on the Medical Interpreter
Many medical professionals are so used to having to interpret for patients as best they can, that they try doing it even after they start working with an interpreter. But you should resist the urge to do this.
After all, your workplace hired a medical interpreter for a reason — it’s important to have a professional who is trained in this job. If you try to do the job for the interpreter, you risk doing it wrong, sending patients mixed messages when it comes to their health.
You should also get out of the common habit of allowing the patient’s family members to interpret. Only a medical interpreter has the training in both medical terms and language to accurately communicate with patients.
Meet with the Interpreter Before Talking to Patients
Interpreters usually have a good understanding of not just languages, but also cultures. So in most cases, their job is to both speak another language and inform you of any cultural differences you should be aware of.
For example, patients might have certain diets due to religious practices, or they might adhere to a lifestyle that they’re hesitant to discuss with you in depth. But if the medical interpreter in your office is aware of these details, he or she can let you know ahead of time so you’re not caught off-guard and do not make your patients feel uncomfortable.
For this reason, get into the habit of meeting with the medical interpreter a few minutes before each appointment. Thanks to the practice of localization, he or she can tell you a few tips on how to proceed based on the patient’s cultural background.
Keep it Simple
No matter how experienced a medical interpreter is, it’s always best to keep your sentences short and simple whenever possible. This will ensure that the professional can clearly communicate with the patient at all times.
This is especially important when you’re asking questions about the patient’s symptoms or when you’re relaying a medical diagnosis and treatment plan. You need to feel confident that the patient understands.
The best way to do this is to avoid long, complicated sentences and medical jargon that could take the interpreter longer than usual to communicate to the patient.
Speak to the Patient Directly
It’s important to make your patient feel like your priority, and you can do this by talking directly to him or her, even when the medical interpreter is in the room.
Plus, your patient will be watching your expression and gestures for clues as you talk, right before the interpreter begins talking to him or her. Looking at your patients when you’re talking can help them start to comprehend what you’re saying even before they hear the medical interpretation in their language.