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Tips for Healthcare Providers


Tips for Healthcare Providers When Working with an Interpreter

Tips for Successful Outcomes

Please ALWAYS request a professional medical interpreter whenever you need to communicate medical information to a Limited English Proficient patient, a deaf or hard of hearing patient and their families.

Make sure to follow these guidelines while working with a medical interpreter, for further information please contact us:
Before entering the room:

  • Brief the interpreter with any relevant information and your expectations from the visit.
  • Never hesitate to ask for clarification of any issues.


  • Talk to the patient all the time, not to the interpreter, maintain eye contact with your patient and address him/her in the first person and avoid saying to the interpreter:  “Can you ask her/him…?.
  • Avoid saying or talking to other providers, students, nurses, etc., inside the consult room if you don’t want the interpreter to render what you are saying.  Often times patients understand more than they can speak.  Everything you say will be interpreted.
  • Please don’t ask for the interpreter’s opinion.

The Interview

  • Maintain a good voice tone, and a comfortable pace while talking to your patient and allow time for interpretation.
  • Avoid unnecessary medical jargon, idiomatic expressions and/or cultural jokes in order to facilitate the flow of dialogue.
  • Provide thorough information regarding test results, diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, etc.
  • Ask the patient if he/she understands and agrees with the information provided.
  • If you are concerned about the quality and accuracy of the interpretation, don’t hesitate to ask the interpreter to repeat back to you the terms in order to ensure patient compliance.


  • Remember that the interpreter is a resource for you.  Interpreters can also perceive cultural and ethnic issues more clearly.
  • If the targeted language is not your native language, avoid taking for granted that you understand what the patient means before the interpreter renders the communication to you.

Accuracy, Confidentiality and Compliance

  • Please do not ask the patients to bring their own interpreter.
  • Do not ask other patients to help you with the interpretation.
  • Do not use children or family members to interpret.
  • Do not use non-qualified UCLA Health staff.

Documenting Use of Interpreter Services in Medical Record

  • Use form 10379 Interpreter Service Documentation from the forms portal to document the presence of a UCLA Medical Interpreter.  All UCLA Medical Interpreters carry badges to identify themselves.

Common Misconceptions About Bilinguals & Interpretation

  • “Interpretation and translation are the same.”  Translation is written, whereas interpretation is spoken.
  • “All bilinguals are fluent."  Although bilinguals are able to speak two languages with some fluency, they are not necessarily good at moving information between the two.  Experience shows that many people described as bilingual overestimate their communication skills altogether.
  • “Anyone who is bilingual can interpret and/or translate effectively.”  Bilinguals speak two languages with certain fluency but that does not mean that they are qualified to render the specific terms of the medical field into another language, especially in writing. 
  • “Interpretation is a simple task."  There are schools that offer interpretation as a career. Therefore interpretation is not as simple as it appears.  
  • “Patients that speak some English don’t need an interpreter."  Many times when patients speak “some” English, providers feel tempted to avoid using an interpreter.  Understanding basic English is not a sign that medical terminology is understood as well.  Limited English speaking patients need an interpreter.

Time Management Hints

Outpatient Clinics

Whenever possible, schedule medical interpreters at least 24 to 48 hours in advance.  If you do not have access to a computer, please complete a dispatcher form and fax it to us or feel free to contact us and we will book the interpreter for you.  If there are any cancellations please make sure you call us to cancel the appointment as well.
Also use our telephone interpreter service line for conference calls for the following:

  • Making, confirming, or re-scheduling appointments, tests and procedures
  • Pre-operative/surgery/test preparation instructions
  • Give information regarding test results
  • For phone consults

Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center

Please contact our office as soon as you know a Limited English Proficient patient has been admitted to your unit.  Our team will coordinate services as needed.

Services we provide:

  • On-site interpretation
  • Video interpretation
  • Phone interpretation
  • Document translation

*CAUTION: Using the internet to translate documents can be misleading and can compromise patient care.

Conference Calls For the Following:

  • Give simple instructions to the patient
  • Understand patient’s requests
  • Ask whether the patient needs something
  • Inform the patient regarding scheduled tests

Interpreters Code

  • Use form 10379 to document the use of an interpreter.
  • Use interpreter services when you need a consent to be signed (a medical interpreter will NOT sign a consent, form, or any type of document unless the healthcare provider has completely explained the procedure to the patient).
  • Patients can refuse the use of a medical interpreter, if that is the case, please document it.
  • When cultural clarification is needed, ask the UCLA medical interpreter to help you.
  • Please follow the Tips for Successful Outcomes in order to achieve a better interaction with your patient.

The State Assembly Bill (AB) 775 - Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/Daly City)

  • Prohibits the use of children as interpreters in communicating medical diagnoses or treatment in hospitals, clinics, and doctors’ offices that receive state funding.
  • The bill requires medical entities to have an established procedure for competent interpretation services that do not require the use of children.
  • Violations of these provisions may result in the loss of state funding and cancellation of state contracts to the offending institution.
  • Children are often traumatized when they are forced to interpret sensitive medical information to their family members.
  • The use of an untrained interpreter, particularly the use of a child who may not even have basic knowledge about parts of the body, disease, or symptoms, can have dire consequences.

Using Family, Friends, Minors, Untrained Volunteers, Strangers, and Other Patients:

  • May result in breach of confidentiality.
  • May result in patients being reluctant to fully disclose critical information.
  • Increase hospital liability due to use of individuals who are not qualified.
  • May result in additions, omissions, and changes in information.
  • May result in misinterpretation due to lack of adequate technical vocabulary.