Microlecture 014: Should We Think of the Interpreter as an Invisible Person?

“The best thing to do from a medical providers perspective to help the MI is to act as if the MI is invisible” says Maria Reira. Ms. Reira is an expert medical interpreter (MI) who interprets in  Spanish, Catalan and German.

Should we behave like the MI is an invisible person,  ‘body-less’ voice if you will? This is to say that even if a MI is there in person, treat them like they are a telephone interpreter. Well, I am not sure. The MI is incredibly helpful in a clinical encounter and I will lose a lot of valuable data if I reduced their role to a mere voice. If I have an MI in my clinical encounter, I am going to look to her/him to interpret the verbal and non-verbal aspects of patient communication. Do you agree? What would you recommend?

VJ Periyakoil, MD, Stanford University School of Medicine.

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