Interpreter Cases for Cultural Competency Instruction

Publication ID Published Volume
205 March 27, 2006 2


This resource is a collection of 5 cases based on clinical scenarios that reflect the challenges of clinical encounters using interpreters. These cases require specialized training for both the standardized patients and the standardized interpreters. They are of different levels of difficulty and can be administered to medical students and residents as teaching cases. The cases utilize interactions that involve both history-taking and counseling. As an example, one case dealing with smoking cessation includes behavior and self-reflection checklists that allow for summative assessment of student communication through interpreters. The resource also includes materials to strengthen and assess student performance, such as: generic communication checklists, checklists specific to the clinical situation and task, standardized patient and interpreter checklists to assess student performance, and checklists for student self-assessment/reflection. The checklists may also be used to stimulate discussion about the challenges of encounters involving interpreters. Teaching medical students and residents to effectively use interpreters is challenging because of the variety of languages and skills of interpreters available. By providing controlled experiences reflecting these challenges we may better prepare students to deal with language barriers in practice.


Lie D. Interpreter cases for cultural competency instruction. MedEdPORTAL Publications. 2006;2:205.

Educational Objectives

By the end of this module, students should be able to:

  1. List and identify obstacles to effective communication using interpreters.

  2. Review the pros and cons of using different interpreters in clinical encounters with a language barrier.
  3. Recognize when a professional interpreter is needed for effective communication in clinical care.
  4. Identify and address one’s own limitations in conducting a medical interview using an interpreter.


  • Interpreter, SPs, ESL, Limited English Proficiency, Language, Professional Competence, Health Equity Research, Humanistic Environment

Prior Scholarly Dissemination

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ISSN 2374-8265