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Fifteen-minute consultation: How to use an interpreter in a medical consultation

Abstract

The use of interpreters is essential in our multicultural society. The families and patients we treat come from differing backgrounds, cultures and spoken language. Many are not proficient in, or may even entirely lack, the ability to communicate effectively in English. As health professionals, we must meet their needs and manage the risks to provision of good quality care that language barriers may introduce. Use of an interpreter or interpreting service is an important skill, which is rarely formally taught in undergraduate or postgraduate curricula. Here, we present some of the pitfalls of using an interpreter, and offer some tips on getting the best out of their use.

  • medical education
  • multidisciplinary team-care
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