Do I Need an Interpreter?

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Can someone help me talk to my doctor?

An interpreter can help you talk to your doctor if you don't speak English, you only speak a little English or you don't feel comfortable talking to your doctor in English.

How do I find an interpreter?

Ask your nurse or your doctor. Community leaders or local organizations may also provide services in your language.

Can I use a friend or family member?

You can ask friends or family members who speak English to come with you to the doctor's office, but you may not want them to be your interpreter. You may have a personal matter that you might not want your friend or family member to know about, so it might be easier to talk to an interpreter. If the doctor's office has an interpreter, you can ask your friend or family member to wait in the waiting room. You may have a child who speaks English. However, it is better to have an adult interpreter. Children often don't comprehend medical words or get upset by the things they don't understand.

Do I talk to the doctor or the interpreter?

Talk directly to the doctor. Your doctor is the person who will answer your questions about your health. The interpreter will make sure you and your doctor understand each other. The interpreter should not make any recommendations or decisions. That is your doctor's job. The interpreter is only there to help you and your physician communicate better.

Is it safe to tell the interpreter about my problems?

It is important that you share information in an honest and open way with your interpreter. Don't let fear or embarrassment keep you from talking about any of your health problems. The interpreter is a professional and won't talk to anyone else about your health problems.

Can I ask for a different interpreter?

If you feel uncomfortable with an interpreter of the opposite sex or for any other reason, it's okay to ask for another interpreter. You should also let your doctor know if you would like the interpreter to leave the room while your doctor examines you. After the doctor finishes examining you, the interpreter can come back in the room to help you and your physician communicate about what the physician found during the examination.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 05/14
Created: 04/06

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