The importance of teaching clinicians when and how to work with interpreters

Patient Educ Couns. 2010 Feb;78(2):149-53. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2009.12.001. Epub 2009 Dec 29.


Objective: To describe the importance of teaching clinicians when and how to overcome language barriers in clinical practice, provide an example of a curriculum for teaching on this topic, and outline the critical issues that must be addressed in this type of teaching.

Methods: We describe a 1.5h educational program for students in a large urban medical school as an example curriculum and how it impacted student responses on a 28-item questionnaire measuring their knowledge, attitudes and likelihood of future behaviour before and after the course. The course components are described and highlight the essential components that should be included in teaching about overcoming language barriers in clinical practice.

Results: There were significant improvments in knowledge, attitudes, and reported likelihood of future behaviors after the educational program. Recommendations for essetential curricular components are made.

Conclusion: Teaching clinicians about language barriers in health care and how to overcome them should be essential to all clinical curricula. Brief educational interventions can meet this need and should include a core set of essential teaching points as outlined.

Practice implications: Teaching clinicians when and how to overcome language barriers in health care will help to reduce the impact of this barrier, make clinicians and interpreters' jobs easier and more transparent, and improve patient care and satisfaction.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence
  • Communication Barriers*
  • Curriculum*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / methods*
  • Humans
  • Program Evaluation
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Teaching / methods*
  • Translating*