Talk Louder? Communicating with Your Spanish Speaking Patients

Publication ID Published Version
8427 June 20, 2011 7


Residents often try to communicate with patients who do not speak their language. In the Emergency Department (ED), residents may not feel they have enough time and resources to use interpreter services and will attempt to communicate with patients on their own. This can be fraught with danger. This session is intended to demonstrate to residents the difficulty and risk of communicating on their own or through a family member. At the end of the session, residents should feel more comfortable using a phone or live interpreter to communicate with non English speaking patients, and less comfortable using a family member for communication.

Our learners had very low proficiency in medical Spanish. 15/20 had little to no fluency, and 5/20 reported limited proficiency. We were able to demonstrate effectiveness by pre and post session evaluation. Prior to the session 11/20 learners were comfortable or very comfortable using a family member to interpret. After the session, only 7/20 residents remained comfortable. Three learners were uncomfortable using an interpreter phone, and two were uncomfortable using a live interpreter before the session. Afterward, no learner was uncomfortable with either of these two methods.


Callahan E, Garcia E, Rehm J. Talk Louder? Communicating with Your Spanish Speaking Patients. MedEdPORTAL Publications; 2011. Available from:

Educational Objectives

  1. To help physicians understand the importance of using interpreters to improve patient care.

  2. To understand the differences between using a family member, an interpreter phone, and a live interpreter.

  3. Develop strategies to improve communication with non-English speaking patients.


  • Interpreters, Latino, Hispanic Americans, Non-English Speaking


  • Medical
    • Emergency Medicine


  • Interpersonal & Communication Skills
  • Patient Care

Professional Interest

  • Communication Skills
  • Evaluation of Clinical Performance
  • Instructional Materials/Methods

Instructional Methods

  • Case-based Instruction/Learning
  • Problem-based Learning (PBL)
  • Simulation

Academic Focus

  • Clinical Sciences
    • Clinical Exam
    • Clinical Skills/Doctoring

Intended Audience

  • Professional School
    • Medical Student
  • Professional School Post-Graduate Training
    • Resident


  • Standardized Patient

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